Farm work was done, the milk hauler had recently picked up the milk and was headed to the cheese plant, we had just finished eating dinner, and my daughter was getting out the ice cream. Ice cream is not only a perfect followup to any meal but this is ice cream month! Not only did President Reagan see fit to make this month the best month, he made this weekend, the 17th, national ice cream day!
So, back to the story at hand; my daughter was getting out the ice cream when I commented to my wife, whom I often call “Cream Elisabeth,” that it would be a perfect evening for flying. The trees were standing still and my wind ribbon was gently waving at me to come out for a flight. That’s when my wife looked at me with big eyes and said, “Your article is due for the Fillmore County Journal!”
Now for the conundrum, do I write the article or do I go flying? I then had a brilliant idea. What if I take off into the air and write about the things I see?! Brilliant! Flying is always the answer.
So, here we go. I had less than 20 minutes before the sun was scheduled to set and unless God saw fit to hold back time, the daylight was fleeting.
Running to get my helmet and wing, I glanced back at the ice cream and said, “I’ll be back!” I laid out my wing, strapped on my already preflighted motor, went through my takeoff routine, and ran into the air as smooth as butter.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of soaring into the sky. One second my feet are on the ground and the next I lift them up and I’m airborne with a “whoo hoo!” at the top of my lungs! The first thing I see is the brilliance of the sunset from a higher perspective. I’m going up late enough that the deep oranges of the sun peering through the atmosphere are already waning and its final declaration to God’s glory is slipping below the horizon with one last call.
I keep gaining altitude and go into my first turn. Looking down I see a playful red fox. It looks up at me, jumps into the ditch and disappears into the field. It’s such a different perspective to be able to see deer running along rows of corn and fawns bouncing around their momma’s legs through the alfalfa.
Up over a thousand feet there’s another new perspective in this beautiful driftless, bluff country! From that altitude, I love the patterns of the fields in strips back and forth along the contour of the land. The contrast of the bluffs and the valleys are in perfect showing. At 1,000 feet, I’m high enough to see the dips into the valleys between the high bluff tops. The far off Winnebago valley tunnels its way through the landscape while the much nearer Beaver Creek Valley trails a light stream of smoke from the many campers enjoying the beauty of our county. I love to follow the roads with my eyes as they snake down through the valleys and back out on top.
When I fly past my pastures, I love to see the cows looking up at me and running along below, wondering what I’m doing so high above them.
When I shiver up into three and four thousand feet I can clearly see the Mississippi River making its way south. From this height and the disappearing sun, it’s surprising to see all the lights dotting the countryside with my favorite being the airport light spinning its nightly rhythm. The brightness of my strobes shining on my hands and the chilliness of this high altitude make me think it’s time to head back down to warmer air.
As I head down, I think there are many places I’ve stopped for ice cream through the years, some of the best memories are “drive through” twist cones as a kid in the back seat, Main St., Decorah, an Albanian Mountain top fort-turned restaurant, Thailand ice cream “sandwiches” (in an actual hotdog bun), sidewalk cafes in Prague, but the very best and my most favorite of all is right here on Beaver Ridge, as I drop down right in the middle of the most beautiful driftless countryside in the world where Cream Elisabeth was waiting with a triple decker peach, ice cream desert!
Take your family to your favorite ice cream parlor and enjoy a triple scoop!
Meet your farmer – Jonathan Gerdes. He and his wife run a farm-to-table raw milk dairy in Caledonia, Minn. If he isn’t in the barn, you can find him dating his wife, playing with his kids, leading youth group, or flying in the sky. Visit gerdesfreshfarm.com for more info.