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Skip Wiarda: September 2020 Barefoot Writing Challenge Co-Winner

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Congratulations to Skip Wiarda, co-winner of the September 2020 Barefoot Writing Challenge! (Your $100 prize is on its way!)

The challenge was to write an essay that answered this prompt:

“If there were no pandemic restrictions and you could travel anywhere right now, where would you go and why?”

Skip gave us a nostalgic take on living in the world. Enjoy his winning submission:


“Tell Me ’Bout the Good Old Days”

It was a gloriously hot day in late summer. The water was smooth as glass, and there was no wind at all. My buddy Mike and I were anchored in a quiet, shady cove off the main arm of the lake. We were practicing proper “social distancing,” of course, him in his boat and me in mine. For years, our motto has been “It’s about the fishin’ — not the catchin’,” so accordingly we were both taking careful note of the ice-cold sweat of an adult beverage. Slow sips coupled with appreciative sighs punctuated our discussion of the world’s woes.

As we wound down resolving the global conundrums, we fell into a comfortable silence.

“Hey. After all these travel restrictions are lifted, where would you go?” Mike asked. “I mean, if you could go anywhere, where would you travel?”

“Anywhere?” I clarified.

“Yep. Anywhere.”

I thought for a moment. A destination came to me surprisingly quickly.

“Time,” I said.

Mike stared disbelievingly. “What? That’s not an answer. You can’t go there — it’s impossible.”

I straightened up and pointed a finger at him. “Hey, you didn’t say the trip had to be real. You just asked where I would travel if I could.” I settled back down, secure in my unassailable logic. “So that’s where I’d travel: time.”

“Okay, I’ll play along. Why ‘time’?”

I thought for a bit. How best to explain? “You remember that old song by The Judds, ‘Tell Me ’Bout the Good Old Days’?” Mike nodded. “Well, there’s a line in it that says, ‘It feels like this world’s gone crazy.’ If that’s not a good description of everything right now, I don’t know what is. So, if I could travel anywhere, I’d go back to ‘the good old days.’”

A sip lubricated my thoughts. “Yeah. I’d go back to being a kid on the farm. Life seemed simpler then. There was school and chores, Mom, Dad, and Uncle Al. We were in the world, not just of it. We planted in the spring, hauled hay in the summer, harvested in the fall, and chopped ice on the pond so the cows could drink in the winter.”

I paused, then sighed and continued. “I miss the smell of fresh-turned earth and newly mowed hay. I miss a bobby calf sucking on my fingers as I teach him to drink from a bucket. I miss all the little things that I took for granted back then.” I had to pause as my throat tightened.

“I miss my dad.”

Mike looked at me, then reached for a second beverage. He popped the top, leaned back, and looked over the water to the mountains beyond. Minutes passed with only the occasional cry of an osprey to break the quiet. We were old friends, again comfortable in a companionable cocoon. I caught him shooting a side-eye at me.

“What? It’s wishful thinking, I know.”

“No, it’s not that, but…” He hesitated. “Can I come with?”

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