It had been nearly 40 years since I'd last been to the place and with my memory no longer what it used to be I couldn't tell whether or not the hamlet had changed.
I was last in Wessington Springs in the early 1970s. For those who aren't quite sure where this rural community is situated, one only needs to know that it's in the general vicinity of Alpena and Woonsocket. And if you don't know where those towns are you're obviously a poseur, the type of person who goes around mispronouncing Pierre.
My first foray to Wessington Springs was for a summer 4-H softball tournament. The caravan of vehicles that carried our 4-H club, our families and various other followers must have looked impressive as it rolled into the village. I don't know what the population of Wessington Springs was, but I bet the state 4-H softball tourney increased it by half.
As I recall, we won in the early rounds of the tournament, which left us with time on our hands. The team opted to go swimming in the community swimming pool, essentially an earthen dugout that was fed by one of the town's namesake springs.
We spent a couple of hours frolicking and swimming and expending approximately a billion calories apiece. And then we somehow still had enough energy to play in the championship round and squeak out a win! It makes me wonder what the score might have been had we had the sense to loll in the shade and conserve our strength.
My most recent visit to Wessington Springs was to speak about farm safety at their Farm and Home Show. I'm no farm safety expert, just a guy who did something stupid and got lucky. I'm extremely fortunate to be sitting here instead of pushing up peonies.
The Wessington Springs Farm and Home Show was well attended. The school gymnasium was filled with booths that saw a steady stream of visitors. It was especially pleasing to see all the children present, from babes in arms, to little kids, to bigger kids who were obviously charged with the onerous task of watching after their younger siblings.
It reminded me of farm and home shows I attended back when I was a boy: kids flitting from booth to booth like bees in a flowerbed, their parents smiling indulgently and chatting with other moms and dads. There was an almost palpable aura of community and nurturing.
Such are the things that comprise the core of small town life and are an answer to the question "How can you stand to live out in the middle of nowhere?"
After my talk was over and my wife and I had chatted pleasantly with some nice folks, I took our things out to our car. My wife had made a few purchases, including some stuff to help make our house smell pretty. She is forever buying such items. Whenever I inquire about the source of the odors she's trying to mask, she just peers at me over the top of her glasses and raises her eyebrows. I wish she would at least give me a hint.
When I got to the car I discovered that one of its tires was plumb flat! Coincidentally, only days earlier my wife had insisted that we purchase and store in the car a portable air compressor. Her precognitive powers are spooky.
After puffing up the tire, I asked a local where we could get it repaired. Spookily enough, we were told to go to Jerry's Motor Clinic!
It's better to be lucky than to be good, and we were good and lucky. Jerry was just finishing up with a vehicle when I popped in to ask if he could look at our tire. He said he could get us right in and our tire was soon receiving his ministrations.
I chatted with Jerry as he resuscitated our tire. I mentioned my earlier visit to Wessington Springs and asked if the old swimming hole was still in use. He said no, but that the city had constructed a new concrete swimming pool to take its place.
This somehow saddened me. I don't know why; it's not like I had hoped to go swimming in the dead of winter. Perhaps I was a bit dismayed that the drive to modernize and sanitize every facet of our lives had invaded my gauzy nostalgia about my first voyage to Wessington Springs.
In all fairness, I do recall that the swimming hole was also somewhat yucky. Even so, I would gladly plunge back into its murky depths to relive that hot August afternoon when we were all young and always had the energy to swing for the fences.