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2013 Norm Strung Youth Writing Awards

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Senior prose, First place: Dropping from November Skies

BY COLE BRODY, Faribault, Minn.
Much of the world is still asleep as the eastern skyline is alive with fire. I find myself in the middle of a Terry Redlin painting as I stand no more than 100 miles outside his stomping grounds. I’m sure he has seen and been inspired by this same sunrise many a time. If only for a moment we are intertwined.
As we unload the decoys, I feel a sense of similarity. I’ve played this game before. The pieces are all the same but this time the board has changed. A few friends and I have traveled west on the winds of the migration. We put over 300 miles on my buddy’s pickup to cross over into God’s country with no guarantee of anything, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Our voyage will be earned not given with the distance and all the gear we need. Two dozen mallard floaters, one dozen mallard full bodies, three guns, two mojos and a lot of ammo — much of which we hope we won’t have to haul back out. Anything with a strap we throw around our body, then we grab our guns and head into the jungle of CRP and reeds.
The light is coming faster than we wanted. Shooting time is already here as we push deeper and deeper into the land. This year’s drought is not our friend right now, previous potholes are nothing but pockets of thick reeds. Twenty minutes ago I could see snowflakes dancing in and out of my headlamp’s light but now those flakes are a distant memory as sweat begins to roll down my sideburns. My pulse has quickened since the walk began. Half out of excitement and half out of hard work.
The journey from the truck to the pond we are going to set up on is nearly half of a mile. I don’t think my waders had ever felt so heavy, every step is now a challenge. About halfway through and here come the reeds. I put the decoy bag down in front of me. I then begin to barrel through, much like a big buck cutting through brush with his head down. It’s not easy, it’s not efficient but it’s the only way.
At this point I’m at war with myself. The body knows it’s only just over halfway there. The body knows it will have to make the trip back. The body knows once there, the work is not done. The mind knows one thing, it only needs to know one thing. The mind knows yesterday this pond was loaded with ducks. Gadwall, wigeon, mallards and even a few pintails. The mind knows best.
Dripping in my perspiration I reach the crest of a hill. From there I see the pond with a nice sprinkle of ducks on it. My buddies and I all give each other a look. The look consists of triumph and tribulation, the look says we made it and we were all right where we wanted to be. As we approach the pond the ducks take to the air. They cut over a hill and head to another pond. They’ll be back, we know it.
Now the games begin. We check the wind one last time and look for a place to set up. A thick chunk of reeds will be our home for the next couple of hours. We dump out all the decoy bags knowing the ducks aren’t going to wait on us. It looks a bomb went off as floaters and full bodies litter the ground. My hands move quickly, my feet move quicker. I must do something in five minutes that I literally could spend six hours on and still not be happy.
Ducks are zipping around as I throw together a spread. I hustle but also try to be precise. In my eyes, the way you put together a decoy spread is a direct reflection of the kind of person you are.
There are those who throw together something and hope for success. Then there are those who thoughtfully put something together and wait for success. I see myself as the latter of the two.
I wipe my damp, dirty hands after tossing out my last decoy. In the blind I admire my piece of work. The mojos spin and floaters ride the slight tug of the current in complete harmony. We have a great pond, great cover and the wind is at our back. Everything is in order it appears, except for one thing. I open the action on my Winchester, she slides back like she’s been waiting for this for a long time. I throw one round in the chamber and hit the button. She snaps shut, there isn’t a thing that’s going to hold her back today. I take two other shells and feed them through the bottom one at a time. Click. Click.
With the last click I am sent into a state of reflection. Somewhere deep within myself asks a voice, “Is this really going to be worth it? Is it going to be worth the trouble? Is it going to be worth the sleep lost? Is it going to be worth the dollars burned? Is it going to be worth the … ”
My inner conversation is drowned out by the outside world.
“Ducks right, ducks right,” my buddy says.
I raise my head and look into the November sky. There they are, a flock of nine wigeon dropping from the heavens. They cut like knives in the sky. They are doing everything they can to line up just like I wanted them to. I urge my buddies, “Wait for ‘em. Wait for ‘em. Wait for ‘em. Cut ‘em.” I pop up from my knee and line up on a drake. As my safety slides into fire another voice speaks up from within. He says but three words.
“Without a doubt.” ♦

Senior prose, Second place: What Archery Hunting Means to Me

BY GINA PALMITER, Clarks Summit, Penn.
This is not a victory story. But it is a success story. After mistakes, frustration and regret, it all finally stuck; but unfortunately, all too late. The tears streamed from my eyes for the first time, I truly realized how much all this means to me.
Five years ago, my father introduced me to the sport of archery hunting and placed the bow in my hands for the first time; the tight release grasped my wrist, sweat beaded my palms, my heart pounded and knees shook, and the arrow  sliced the air with no mercy and never looked back. From that moment on, I was hooked for life.
The immense amount of discipline, focus, will, determination, and physical and psychological strength that is commanded for every single shot with the bow and arrow is unparalleled to any difficulty I have ever elsewhere faced.
It has shown me both the hardship and reward. From the first moment I picked up the bow and shot my very first arrow, it was a struggle, never once easy. And after every harvest of an animal, I fell on my knees and cried, and thanked God and my dad for the opportunities and the blessing to hunt and harvest.
At 13, I retrieved my first doe with the bow. At 14, I harvested my first buck with the bow. At 15, I retrieved my second doe with the bow. At 16, I harvested my second buck with the bow. But at 17, I messed up just a little.
It was the last day of archery season, and the pressure was on. The sound of the alarm jolted me awake, sending an electric burst of adrenaline through my body. Hunting on our land in northeastern Pennsylvania, it had been hard practice since June and a difficult hunting season so far. Some long hours of frigid temps, bulked up in every pair of sweatpants I own, of nothing but no luck and annoying squirrels who pretend they are deer.
The sky was pitch black as I climbed into my tree along the field. The stand stuck out like a sore thumb, so utter stone stillness was commanded. As the dawn turned to day, jitters squirmed through my stomach and trembled through all my muscles, while the excitement pumped my heart and sweat beaded my palms. A few does crossed by my stand 10 yards away, but I waited patiently with the hopes a buck might follow; half standing, half sitting, urgently still.
After a few hours crawled by, the tension began to build as the luck-less minutes floated away. Praying that I got a chance, after a long season of hard practice and endless hours, excitement and disappointment, it was all I wanted.
As the sun reached its peak, my stomach grumbled and my mind pondered. Waiting patiently in my stand, now for five hours, I tried to keep the hope, for the day was young. I scanned the forest back and forth as I sat relaxed in my stand with uneasy tensions about what the future held. In a blink, one of the biggest bucks I had ever seen came out into the field, 50 yards away from me.
“Oh my gosh.” He stood like a giant, sniffing and peering on the run that traveled straight down to my stand. My stomach sank and my heart pounded as my knees and arms shook. When his head was down to the grass, I slowly reached for my bow and began to stand up.
Big mistake.
His head flew up and zoned all his attention on me. I froze like a stone, but it was already too late. A repetitive “no” was the only thing I could mutter. He intently focused all his attention on me; there was nothing I could do.
He stomped his foot. No …
He turned around. No …
I grabbed my grunt tube and blew a desperate last-hope grunt. Nothing …
He scurried away. No …
I watched his white horns disappear through the barren branches. The bitter feeling tore at my heart and abandoned me with the impossible wish to go back in time just a few seconds. Tears filled my eyes and blurred my vision. Anger stormed through my veins as I watched him run away, run farther and farther away from me, like slowly pulling a dagger out of a bloody wound.
Disappointment suffocated my heart, and left me cold and alone to bear the solitude of my fatuity.
That was the last deer I saw that day. Six hours later, blackness returned to the sky. Disappointed, me and my stiffened, numb muscles climbed down from my tree together and met my dad down the path. As we were walking out of the woods together, my dad patted my back and shook me a little and said, “Good job, kid.” I have never loved archery hunting more than I do right now. My success.
That day I realized what hunting means to me and what it is truly all about. I could sit in a tree for hours with no luck and a crushed heart, but at the end of the day, it was a day well spent.
It was a blessing to spend a moment in time in God’s creation, enjoying my life in the solitude of the wilderness, challenging myself to the extreme with the bow and arrow, making mistakes, but learning and growing as a person all the while.
The adrenaline, the rush, the excitement, the nerves, the strength, the hunt, the story and the time with my dad is what hunting is all about to me. The horns, the trophy and the glory don’t even cross my mind anymore. My love of archery hunting will manifest in my heart forever.
Next up … rifle season, baby. ♦

Senior prose, Third place: The Detail’s in the Devils

BY TANNER HARDY, Spokane, Wash.
In eighth-grade earth science we learned all about mountains.
Sitting on top of the molten core of the Earth, continent-sized tectonic plates drift imperceptibly due to currents in the magma beneath them.
When these colossal forces of nature collide and struggle against each other, neither able to force the other back into the magma below, they crush together and bend upwards toward the sky.
Through millions of years of weathering and erosion, a mountain — as we see it today — forms.
However, no textbook, lecture or canned “classroom experiment” can adequately describe the feeling of standing at the base of one of these massive monuments to geology, seeing the summit, wreathed in wisps of cloud, and preparing to pit one’s will against nature to reach that goal.
The summer before my freshman year, I faced such a task. The whole week, my Scout troop and I had been backpacking in the Seven Devils Mountains — with no car or boat or support vehicle. We carried all our supplies and gear on our backs.
Situated in Idaho near the Snake River, across from the northeastern tip of Oregon, this wild collection of high peaks and frigid mountain lakes lies untamed and unforgiving. Steep inclines, long days, endless mileage, bitterly cold water, thin mountain air and dehydrated food combined to wear us down physically and mentally as the five-day, 60-plus-mile ordeal wore on. Then we came to the base of She-Devil.
Triumphantly piercing the sky at over 9,300 feet, She-Devil stands as a brazen challenge to any individual brave or foolish enough to attempt a scramble up its sheer faces. We were both.
Steaming and sweating, we ascended boulder fields covered in snow, despite the late summer sun beating down. Reaching the last set of ridges leading up to the peak, danger abounded. Narrow ledges provided unsure footing, and one step on a wobbly stone could have easily sent a careless hiker to certain demise on the harsh rocks far below. With a little luck and some help from each other, we all safely arrived at the summit.
Rock-bestrewn and barely large enough to fit our group, the tip of the mountain provided little in the way of restful seats, but what it lacked in comfort, it made up for in majesty.
As we sat and gazed at the thousands of miles surrounding us, silence fell over the group — not giggle-ridden classroom silence but a deep, profound silence, it seemed as if the height of our perch and the crisp, cold air blocked all noise from below and within, leaving us isolated, alone with our thoughts, able to peer into the depths of our souls and see just how we felt.
Even now as I ponder the experience, my breath grows short and I can see the sprawling landscape. I can remember the feeling of peace and wisdom I felt. After signing the summit log and taking some pictures, we descended back into the clamor of life almost reluctantly and — at least in my case — changed.
The world we live in feeds us a constant stream of sound: from a friend’s voice, to music on the radio, to a scolding parent, to a talkative sibling, to a commercial on television, noise bombards us. We even inflict it upon ourselves, from those who sing loudly in the shower, to those who perpetually bear music-blaring headphones.
Genuine silence seems forgotten. Yet, how do we honor the valiant slain soldiers of our country or the tragic loss of friends and family? With a moment of silence, an undeniably powerful experience.
On the fierce pinnacle of She-Devil, I learned the irrefutable potency of silence in affecting attitudes, giving perspective and transforming personalities. Underneath us and around us, the forces of nature move along methodically. Apart from the occasional thunderstorm, earthquake or other natural disaster, the vast majority of geological time marches on in peace. Plates shift, breezes blow, currents flow. Waves endlessly lap the shore, rivers carve deep valleys, winds shift endless mounds of dirt and sand and mountains form, all without our notice.
Yet, despite the monumental significance of these events, to what soundtrack is this glorious drama of nature set to?
Silence.
All it took was a tussle with a Devil to figure it out. ♦

Junior prose, First place: One Feisty Fish

BY JESSICA ROBACH, Perry, Mich.
A gentle breeze swept across the water, leaving soft ripples behind. I looked up at the morning sky, which was stained pink with the rising sun. Long grass twirled in the wind. I suddenly heard the sound of our tent being unzipped.
“Ready for some fishing?” my dad whispered, stepping out of the tent. I grinned. “You bet!” I said excitedly.
We sat at the campfire, its long, angled strips stretching toward the sky. “Want to go out now?” asked my dad after we chowed down some scrambled eggs. “Yup, looks like a great day to fish,” I said as my stomach flopped with anticipation.
We heaved the canoe into the gentle waters of Lake Georgiana. The sun’s rays were now spilling through the leaves of the trees, which were sprinkled with drops of dew. “Then let’s go catch a fish,” my dad replied. “Is the Pop-R alright?” I had only learned to use the Pop-R the day before. “Let’s give it a try,” I told Dad.
As we started gliding along the water, my dad cast out and I quickly heard his echoing voice yell, “Fish on!” I whipped around as my father reeled in a puny, two-inch fish. “Ha, ha. Very funny,” I grumbled as my dad let the skimpy fish go.
By midday we were fish-less and hot. Our skin itched as we used the last of the sunscreen to try to shield us from the blazing ball of heat above us.
“Should we go in?” Dad asked. “No way,” I said. “We’re going to catch that fish.”
I cast out, almost snagging a dainty cattail leaf. I glanced over toward my dad as I worked the Pop-R through the water. But my attention was soon directed elsewhere as I felt my lure being engulfed by an absolutely monstrous fish. The explosion of the fish attacking my lure jerked me forward.
“Set the hook,” my dad bellowed. “Set the hook!”
The fish fought with all its might. The canoe stirred, rocking back and forth under the huge fish’s control. I reeled with both hands grasping the pole, which was now bent in an arc.
“Dad,” I choked. “Any suggestions?”
“Slow and easy does it,” he replied in a low voice.
I saw silver streaks flash under the water. “Almost there,” I gasped. My arms were jerking back and forth from the weight of the fish. I heaved on the pole one last time and saw a huge swirl at the side of the canoe. My dad quickly splashed the net into the water and scooped up the ginormous, glistening fish.
Smiles stretched ear-to-ear on both of our faces. I sighed with relief as I checked to make sure I still had both of my arms.
“Good job, Bass Queen,” my dad said. I had caught a monster largemouth bass. It was heavier than a pile of bricks. After we snapped some pictures, I glanced at the fish and said, “I’m going to let him go.” I picked up that big oaf and released him back into the water. I smiled and said, “That was the catch of the day.”
As we packed up for home, my dad and I babbled about how much fun we’d had, and I teased him about his catch. I smiled at him and said, “I really had a good time.”
“I did too, Bass Queen,” my dad said.
I caught my last glimpse of Lake Georgiana as we drove off down the road.
I laughed and said, “That sure was one feisty fish.” ♦

Junior prose, Second place: Big Fish, Bigger Smiles

BY SARAH ZUMBROCK, Grand Rapics, Mich.
One spine-tingling cold day, Jonathon, my older brother, and I went out ice fishing with our parents. My dad took us to a favorite spot of his to fish for pike.
We had just set down the last wooden tip-up in the jet black water when a little girl dragged her grandfather out onto the slippery ice near us. She marched right up to my dad and started a friendly conversation. On a previous fishing trip, she and her grandpa met my dad on the ice, and he learned that they had never been ice fishing before.
Before long, one of the bright, red flags on the tip-ups sliced through the crisp air and halted at 90 degrees north. My dad, the first one to notice, said, “Who wants to pull the line up?” intending either Jonathon or me.
Unexpectedly, the little girl shouted, “Me, me, me,” as if it was a life-or-death situation. My dad, not wanting to be rude, willingly let her tug the line up, inch by inch. With his help, the seven-year-old girl caught a 25½-inch pike. Her loving grandpa must have been very proud, because he had a huge smile plastered across his chubby face.
Soon, the two of them walked away, leaving their slimy fish on the snow-covered ice. My dad had offered it to them, but they didn’t want to deal with cleaning it.
Later that day, Jonathon caught a 24 ½-inch pike. It was not as big as the little girl’s fish, but it was still a keeper.
It came time for us to make our final rounds and I still hadn’t caught a mere little minnow yet. When collecting the tip-ups, my job was to scoop slushy ice out of the hole so my dad could get the wet tip-up out. After he was done, he would twist up the ice-cold line with his bare hands and throw the remains of the bait into the plastic bucket.
On the second to last hole, my dad could tell there was a heavy fish on the line when he lifted the tip-up out of the water. My chance had finally come.
I grabbed the line and started pulling it in. I kept reminding myself, “grab, pull, release, grab, pull, release.” Finally, the triangle-shaped head of a northern pike pierced through the pitch-black water and with a good fight, I landed what I hoped to be a keeper.
My dad pulled out his old, rusty tape measure and stretched it from the head to the fan-like tail. The fish was 26 inches long. I had just caught the biggest fish of the day.
The first words to slip out of my mouth were, “Little girl, you’re going down.” A small smile crept onto my frozen face while a big frown covered my dad’s. I know I should have been happy for the little girl, but what can I say? My  nine-year-old competitiveness got the better of me.
Since then, I go out fishing with my family every year. When I think back to that moment I realize that it was pretty cool that I, being nine years old, got to teach a younger girl how to ice fish. It’s a great thing for kids to experience what nature has put out there for them, in a fun way, and I hope that little girl thinks so, too. ♦

Junior prose, Third place: The Best Teal Hunt Ever

BY SETH ABEL, Johnstown, Ohio
It was 2 a.m. on October 13 when my brother, my dad and I got our camouflage on, grabbed our guns, decoys and breakfast. and got in the van.
It was pitch black in the early hours of the morning as we drove for about three hours to the controlled hunt near the Indiana border. The excitement mounted as we got out and went inside the maintenance garage to pick a blind. When it  came my turn, I chose blind number 3 — a new blind that was recently installed on the area. We got our gear ready (including a new pair of waders for my dad) and headed to the blind — just a few hundred yards from the parking area. Our blind was a concrete pit blind with a flooded cornfield out in front. It also had a cut cornfield behind it and a cornfield at the side.
After we got situated at the blind, we quickly started spreading our decoys out in the shallow water of the flooded corn. We had about a dozen floating mallard decoys in the flooded part and about two dozen Canada goose decoys in the cut cornfield behind us. We use rag decoys with plastic heads from shell decoys placed on wooden dowel rods that are put through the rag decoys to hold them open and upright. After we got our decoys spread out, we got in our blind and waited for the sun to rise.
Even before the sun had risen, about a half dozen blue-winged teal landed in our decoy spread. Soon it was time we could shoot and the excitement was tremendous. Birds started flying everywhere. Before we knew it, a flock of blue-winged teal were about to land in our decoys. Bang, bang, bang, one teal fell in the water. My brother had gotten the first bird.
I was not going to give up though. Soon, another flock of teal came into range. Bang, bang, I got one. After that, I got on my waders and went and got my brother’s bird out of the water. Mine had landed near the water but not in it.
After we got our birds, we quickly jumped back into our pit blind. Soon, more teal came into our decoys and landed. We waited for them to fly up but they just sat there. Soon after that we heard geese so we looked around. I looked over to my left and saw a flock of at least 25. I told the others to look. As soon as they were close enough, I shot and dropped one.
Then after that more teal were flying in and as soon as they were in range bang, bang, bang. I dropped one more bird into the flooded corn. We got out and started looking for the birds. We looked and looked and we finally found it.  Unfortunately it was still alive. We surrounded it so we could catch it without too much stress on the bird. As soon as I saw it, I quickly grabbed it to dispatch it as soon as possible. Some of the hunters in a nearby blind weren’t too
happy with us as we searched for our wounded birds, but we didn’t want them to suffer and we certainly didn’t want them to get away and die later.
After a while the flocks of teal became less frequent but the flocks of geese came more often. Soon my brother had dropped a bird and we went off to retrieve it from the nearby corn.
After a few hours of calling, shooting and retrieving, it was time to head back home to a trap shooting event that we were scheduled to attend. It was a long drive back, but the excitement of the hunt was still fresh in our minds as my brother and I fell asleep during the van ride back home.
After the trap shoot, we wrapped up the day with some skinning and plucking and some good story telling — stories that will be told again and again as we relive the best teal hunt ever. ♦

Senior poetry, First place: Memory Slope

BY DARBY MARTIN, Moscow, Idaho
I just woke up
Too excited to change
Into my day apparel.
Wearing pajamas and snow gear
About to leave
Walking to the big, maroon
Ford F-150,
I feel the excitement building.
With hot cocoa in hand
I put my hat on
Then gloves, then scarf.
The cold awaits me.
The warm truck
My dad driving
Me in the front seat
Brother and sister in the back
Sleds in the bed.
Finally, we are there.
We jump out of the truck
Not even in park yet.
We grab our favorite sled and
run
Over the hill, looking down
The wide, long fairway
Hole one
U of I Golf Course
Blanket of snow covering
invisible grass
Awaiting our arrival.
We start marking out tracks
Already getting cold
Not caring, having too much
fun.
Snowflakes falling
With the gray, early morning
Laughs fill the air
Smiles shoot back and forth
Snowballs here and there.
Working
Hoping our hard work will be
as great as we think
Finally we finish the paths.
Each of us grabs a sled
Our dad watches over us
Laughing and smiling as he
does.
We all push off.
Who will win?
It’s Preston.
Oh, little brothers.
We all start to climb the hill
Only to do it again.
Next comes the train rides
Holding on to one another’s
sleds.
I have a feeling this won’t
work.
We do it anyway.
We crash into each other.
Flipping and tumbling
Rolling down the hill.
Now it’s his turn.
I sit down.
He sits right behind me
Gives us a push.
Down the hill we go
Laughing
Playful screaming
Smiles, wide as the ears.
Back up.
His turn with Preston
Then Emily.
On this went
For the rest of the day
Happiness
Love
Our family.
The cold finally got to us.
Looking back at the hill
I see all the tracks
Snow angels
And boot prints left behind.
Laughs and smiles
Still float in the air.
Light snow, gray clouds
Picking up the sleds
Shaking off the excess snow
Blue-ish lips
Rosy cheeks and noses
Shivering teeth
Soaking socks, gloves, and hats
Nice warm truck
Heading home
To a warm house.
Warm blankets
Hot chocolate
Nothing to do for the rest of the
day
But movies and naps.
Memories of the day
Stay forever
Within the heart.
Years later
He’s gone
But the memories are not.
He died two years ago, today.
Sadness
Memories
Love
One of my favorite memories
Sledding
Family
We haven’t gone back there
The U of I Golf Course.
I still smile
When I think about that day
Don’t talk about it much.
But that’s okay.
Tears come and go
When I think about it.
Wish I could re-live it
Have that much fun again
Be that happy again
Smile like I did
Laugh like I did
See them smile and laugh
Be free, Let go.
I wish I could go back.
We haven’t gone back there
The U of I Golf Course.
I still smile
When I think about that day
Don’t talk about it much
But that’s okay.
Tears come and go
When I think about it.
I wish I could re-live it
And have that much fun again.
Wish I could go back. ♦

Senior poetry, Second place: Changes of Autumn

BY STEPHEN MILLER, Coloma, Mich.
The wind is blowing through the pines; Winter is coming in.
The sky is full of dark grey lines; Snowfall will soon begin.
The leaves run fast along the ground; the air is bitter cold.
The squirrel packs nuts by the pound, as if collecting gold.
The coyote sheds his summer coat; the bat hides in the cave.
The duck floats like a little boat, upon the rolling wave.
The trees make a colorful blaze, of yellow, orange and red.
They brighten up the darkest days, before they shave their
heads.
The night is longer than the day; the fox can see his breath.
Mosquitoes that came out in May, finally meet their death.
The deer run all around the woods; the rut is fully on.
The farmer harvests all his goods; frost will be seen at
dawn. ♦

Senior poetry, Third place: I Am From

BY JAKE MARSHALL, Rhinebeck, N.Y.
I am from the mountains of New York,
The trails of my Grandfather’s woods,
The cooking of my Grandmother’s stove,
The amazing and dangerous tales of my Uncle’s journeys.
I am from the woods,
Where I hear roars and howls of faraway beasts,
I see trees, grown tall from the earth for generations,
The darkness of the forest is scary,
I feel a cool wind, blowing leaves off the trees.
I am from fire,
The fire is hot,
Warming our souls,
I am from the coldness of winter,
Sleigh rides cutting through the white snow,
Snowballs hitting me, thrown from my cousin’s hands.
I am from the history of the giant hills,
I am from the echoes lost to the land,
I am from the simplicity of life. ♦

Junior poetry, First place: Ode to a Crocus

BY CLAIRE DAUGE-ROTH, Bath, Maine
Crocus —
your vibrant
green shoots
perforate
the densest dirt.
As you have for ages,
you scatter the countryside
with your ecstatic blossom,
reminding the passerby
of things to come.
Crocus —
you are
the hope and prayer
of a poor man
as you spread
your creamy-colored flesh
across his fields.
You,
Crocus,
are beauty royal.
Your petals,
crystalized with dew,
retract at dusk
to flourish again
as the first rays
of golden warmth
brush your exquisite wings.
Dearest Crocus,
you were delivered
into this world
by Flora,
the goddess of flowers.
Krokos you were named
when she laid you
in the cradle of a valley,
and a cardinal
sang your lullaby.
Crocus,
your angelic petals
concoct a lilac goblet
from which mankind
gulps
every last drop
of your rich liqueur.
And like the dove,
an olive branch clutched
in its beak,
you, Crocus,
bring hope.
Crocus,
as you pierce
shallow remnants
of winter flurries,
I perceive
a sudden change in the air
that I might
have missed.
Your reminder
was all
I needed. ♦

Junior poetry, Second place: Seven Twister

BY WALLACE JACKSON, Edgecomb, Maine
We sit in the canoe —
he’s in the back, I’m in the
front.
A tapered leader twists in
the evening breeze.
He hands me the green fly
box,
and I open it in awe:
thirty years collection and
selection.
But I don’t want the green
box.
I reach for the steel case
— the selection of flies
like no other.
That box was handmade in
England, you know.
Your grandpa tied all the
flies in there.
I pop it open.
Fingers touch
the strong black bristles
of a leech pattern
grasshopper.
Eyes scan
the streaming yellow
feather of a Mickey Finn.
Finally,
I find it,
the perfect fly:
small brown plumes on
both sides
with a soft white tuft on
top.
I remove it from the foam
ridge.
That’s a great fly, dad
comments.
I slip the line through the
eye
and tie it on.
Such a little knot
never made
such a strong connection. ♦

Junior poetry, Third place: Harvest Song

BY HALEY HUGHES, Gallipolis, Ohio
It was an early fall morning.
A hint of sunlight peeked through the
trees.
Birds were awakening
To a brisk autumn breeze.
The forest was dampened
By an overnight shower.
But the skies have cleared up
By this early morning hour.
We find our way down the path
To our two-person stand.
From our spot in the tree
We can survey all the land.
There’s a noise in the leaves.
Something is coming our way.
It’s a pair of small squirrels
That had decided to play.
I watched as they ran
And flocked around.
I made every effort
Not to make a sound.
Off to my left
I see something new.
It’s slipping along
In the morning dew.
It looks like a doe
Followed by a fawn.
They’re strolling along
Just a kid and its mom.
They move on along.
We let them pass by.
We are hunting a trophy
But none caught our eye.
It feels like forever.
Time seems to stand still.
We’ve been waiting all morning
In search of our kill.
Just when I thought
Our hunt’s almost done,
I see a big deer.
This could be the one.
I’m dressed all in camo
In a stand in a tree.
I try to sit still
So he doesn’t see me.
I reach for my bow.
He’s headed our way.
The deer of a lifetime,
Here comes my prey.
He’s taking his time.
His nose close to the ground.
This day started slow,
But it’s turning around.
I load my arrow.
He’ll soon be close enough.
My heart’s pounding faster.
Staying calm will be tough.
At 25 yards,
I get ready to shoot.
With a head full of antlers,
This buck is a brute.
I look through my sight.
I take aim holding still.
I start breathing harder.
I just love how this feels.
He drops his head down.
My arrow takes flight.
I hit the same spot
I saw through my sight.
He jumps and kicks.
He runs toward the brush.
We’ll sit, we’ll wait.
We don’t want to rush.
It’s been almost an hour,
Since I made that deer mine.
Time for a walk.
I’ve got a trophy to find.
We walk several yards.
I make not a sound
Until I look up ahead
And see my big buck on the ground.
Some girls like to shop,
Buy special things at the mall.
But my prized possession,
Will soon be hanging on the wall. ♦
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