5-21-11 Rollin on the river
I turned 49 on Wednesday, the same day Harmon Killebrew died. Talk about a bad birthday present. As a child growing up in Bloomington in the 60s and 70s, Killebrew was a mythic figure. I remember how bitter I was when Calvin Griffith released Killebrew after the 1974 season, and he had to play the final year of his career in a Kansas City Royals uniform. I went to Harmon Killebrew Day at The Met in 1975 and Harmon was there, wearing Royal's blue instead of the home Twins whites. I don't recall Harmon ever saying anything bad about Griffith's disgraceful move.
I met Killebrew in Sioux Falls in the 1990s...I don't remember if he was there for the Twins winter tour or if he was helping push the new stadium effort back then. As a child I loved to draw. I have a binder filled to overflowing with pictures, paintings, comic books and flip movies I drew. Sports heros were a favorite subject. I drew a picture of Bert Blyleven in 1973, and in 2001 I had the pleasure of going into the announcing booth at the Metrodome and having the gracious Blyleven autograph it for me. It now hangs in my office. I also drew many pictures of Killebrew, and had hoped to someday have him sign one also, but alas, it will never be. After he retired, Killebrew started an auto dealership in his home state of Idaho, but it went bankrupt...I had heard "The Killer" was not the best money manager because he was always loaning money out to people and not getting paid back. When I saw him in Sioux Falls, I considered asking him to autograph an ancient Twins pennant I had, but I had heard he was advised by his manager to not give out any freebies anymore, so I settled for a hand shake. Harmon went gray early in life and he always reminded me of a grandfather I never had. A very calm, gentle, humble man with a lot of talent. The world is a poorer place without him.
Ever since the group Clean Up the River Environment, or CURE, was formed in Montevideo 20 years ago, I've done a lot of interviews with them as they encouraged people to canoe on the area's rivers. On Wednesday, my birthday, I finally took their advice.
I put my canoe on top of my Honda, and me and my son Mike went down to the Upper Sioux State Park and dropped off his car at the Yellow Medicine River Confluence Campground. Then we drove in my car to the Kinney Public Access on the Minnesota River, just downstream from Granite Falls. We got in the river and floated for nearly 3 hours. The river was high and the current was strong, and we probably would not have had to even paddle except we were heading into a 5 to 10 mile an hour wind.
It was sunny, warm and extremely quiet. We did not see a single human being the whole time we were on the river. Other than seeing the occasional glimpse of a house on a bluff or a state park sign, we could have been on the river in the 1840s. After a while we got a little hungry and bored and we sang all the lyrics of "American Pie" and "Bohemian Rhapsody", then played some rousing games of 20 questions. Unfortunately, we got good cell reception on the river and had to deal with the outside world a few times.
Michael is home for a brief time from college, and next week leaves for two months of missionary duty in South Dakota, so I thought it would be a good way to spend some quality time with him, and I was right. I strongly recommend getting out on the river. Go to CURE's website for tips on the best canoeing routes...www.cureriver.org.