Driving home from work today, I was listening to a story on MPR about the effect the drought is having on folks who live and work in southwestern Minnesota, in the Worthington area. One farmer was saying that he'd soon have to spend $16,000 to join a rural water district but he and his family were over a barrel because they couldn't live without water. My Minnesota has always considered itself a water rich state. Except that we have been "free riders" for too long. Free riders being those who let someone else pay their dues for them. When I was learning the manners that good hunters should follow when on a farmer's or ranchers properties, one rule that was drilled into my head had to do with gates. The rule was, basically, leave them as you found them. If you came to a closed gate, open it, walk through and close it behind you. If the gate was open when you got to it, don't close it. Just leave it alone. From what I've seen and read about, not many farmers, ranchers or city folk follow the kind of manners I was taught when it comes to water use. I've heard and read too many complaints that "it costs too much" to return water in the quality it was before it was used. Joni Mitchell's great refrain "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone" kept running through my head as I listened to the MPR story. The photo at the top of this posting is of a birthday cake with sparklers that was part of the celebration of my daughter's recent birthday. All things being equal (they never are), she's a little less than a third of the way through an average life span. If she stays in Minnesota, will she continue to have reason to celebrate based on our wise use of resources? What kind of legacy are we leaving those who must follow in our foot steps. There were too many children recently deprived of a chance to enjoy the amazing world around them. Are we in a different way depriving our children, the ones we still have with us, of the same chance? There's a very special birthday that most of us will celebrate in less than a week. Are we being the kind of shepherds and stewards we should? S(olstice) minus two and counting.