After seventh grade I was suddenly too old for the ravine and the riverbank. The next summer I worked on nearby truck farms, hoeing corn, picking potatoes. Other boys inherited the riverbank. I worked. At 18 I proceeded directly downriver to the University of Minnesota and the smoke-filled classrooms of Folwell Hall and football Saturdays and the blare of the glorious “Rouser” and old alums in their 40s lumbering lead-footed toward Memorial Stadium. I had literary ambitions—so did others—and we found each other and coalesced. We wrote dense jagged unreadable poems and exulted in obscurity, boys with long hair and girls with jiggly breasts under their aboriginal blouses, everyone skinny as snakes. I spent six years sorting through various personas (Boy Scholar, Embittered Poet, Dangerous Radical, Wry Humorist) and wound up with the one that paid a salary: Friendly Announcer. I did all of this a couple miles from the Brethren, which made for interesting collisions. Standing outside the 400 Bar, smoking a Pall Mall, and a car honks, and it’s Aunt Jean and Uncle Les. Drop the smoke, walk to the car, say hi, smile, try not to exhale. And now devout Muslims from Somalia live in the old Brethren neighborhood; robed women and somber elders watch teenage Somali girls go by in short shorts and daring tank tops and product in their hair. Same play, new actors.
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The Chinese are well aware of the importance of maintaining the fertility of the soil. Composting is a way of life as the Chinese save all organic matter to use as natural fertilizer or as animal fodder. In many instances a village farmer is assigned the task of gathering up deposits of manure from stray village animals and placing them in the communal compost bin. Through such care the Chinese have kept up the fertility of their soil which would otherwise have been depleted long ago by such intensive use.