We moved to Emerald Meadows Drive on the Emerald Hills Golf Course in 2000. It is a town house and we do little work on the outside like mowing, weeding and snow removal. Connie does plant many flowers in pots and makes it a very desirable place in the summer growing season. Several years ago we installed an awning over the deck thus it is like an added room. The golfers tee off just to the left of our town house but only the gold and ladies tee boxes are visible. The long shooters tee off further south and we can only hear the crack of the club head and watch which way they go to play their next shot. It is very enjoyable.
Every Fourth of July we get in our golf cart and drive to the ridge overlooking Highway 71 and the Park parking lot. From that vintage point we can view and hear the beautiful fireworks. We take along a bag of popcorn, liquid refreshments and some insect repellant. It is exciting to watch the cars trying to find a parking place across from the Maritime Museum, the pedestrians and the traffic on Highway 71. A friend of ours brings his golf cart and a radio. Tuning into KUOO we get to hear patriotic music while the fireworks are going. It is a great way to celebrate the Fourth.
We think that this year the fireworks display was extra special with many different rockets and colors. Prior to our moving to Emerald Hills we lived on Pocahontas Point on West Lake Okoboji and sitting in our front yard gave us a great view of the display. We even went out on our boat several times but would rather view the rockets from land. We miss the parade of boats coming and leaving the fireworks, first green then red boat lights.
When we go to the ridge above the highway we always park next to a huge cottonwood tree. There are two of them and for curiosity sake we went and measured them. Going on Google produced a guide to go up 54 inches from the ground and measure the circumference. The larger of the two cottonwood trees measures 150 inches around. Using that as a guide it determines that that tree is 100 years old meaning it was planted or volunteered in 1915. Wow!
One-hundred years, and I have only viewed the changes and developments for 90 years. My birthday was in June and I turned 90. Wow! If only those two old cottonwood trees could tell us what they have observed but unfortunately they can't speak so we can only improvise and speak for them.
Our seeds blew into the area about 1910 from our Mother who grew along the banks of Lake Minnewashta. She is long gone being cut down to make way for the Oak Hill boat livery, restaurant and gas station. Our growth was slow but we took hold and grew just alongside the Milwaukee railroad tracks. We were never alone as the Milwaukee passenger train came by every day; in the morning going north to Spirit Lake and around six in the evening headed for Des Moines. It had to go over a trestle over Highway 71.
On weekends during the summer, the passenger cars were full of people who disembarked at either Arnolds Park depot or Okoboji depot and from those depots they would go to the Park or get on a steamer to travel to some cottage or resort. On weekends many times there would be "special" passenger trains bringing tourists from Des Moines and all points between. During the week there would be freight trains bringing in lumber, automobiles, food and in the winter, carloads of coal.
In the winter, train loads of ice were shipped by rail to all points south. The loading of ice was at Okoboji and although we couldn't see that from our site we kept count. From our place on the ridge we could watch the men taking ice from West Lake Okoboji; bringing them to ice houses to the east and west of us.
The one thing we really miss is the trestle over Highway 71 just to the left of us. Not only did the Milwaukee trains go over the highway but over the many years we could watch the vehicle traffic come and go. It has been a really wonderful sight to see the development of the vehicles from Model T, Model A and all the others brands. Early on we knew all the makers of the vehicles but lately we lost track, especially when vehicles were made in some foreign country. The one thing we did observe from our early days was that the color of the vehicles used to be mostly black but not today.
We needed water to grow but it was fun to watch the traffic on Highway 71 grind to a halt when a downpour occurred. We don't know who designed the highway but if they had wanted to drain the water to gather under the railroad trestle they succeeded. Every time it really rained the water under the railroad trestle just held there. Some daredevils tried to go through the one or two feet of water and sputtered out right under the trestle. The garage tow trucks loved them.
There was always a great deal of activity in the Park and we watched them build the roller coasters, docks, State Pier, Roof Garden and best of all was the Saturday and Sunday baseball games played in the baseball diamond just across the highway. From our branches high in the sky we had the best seat in the park. Wow! The people loved their baseball and the stands would be full weekend after weekend. Baseball teams came from all over the country and our local boys did pretty good year after year. There was a high, board fence around the baseball diamond but from our vantage point we saw all the games. Many times people would sit under our branches in the shade and watch free. We never knew how much it cost to get into the grounds but whatever the cost many didn't have the price of admission especially in The Depression days. The Park was always busy in the summer with the comings and goings of our visitors. From our vantage point we could see the speedboats carrying passengers out onto the lake and back. It wasn't until after World War II that people started to bring their own boats by trailer or keep them in boat hoists like we see now at Oak Hill Marina. Fishermen were busy in the fall and early on had boats but most people didn't own a boat so relied on Spotts or Nelson to get a ride. The Queen was always at the Park to give rides and we loved to look at and admire beautiful West Lake Okoboji.
The winters were long and hard to endure but we continued to grow. There was always vehicle traffic in front of us coming and going. The only activity in the winter in The Park was the two roller skating rinks; Majestic and Dreamland. The kids from surrounding towns loved to go there if nothing else but to watch the skaters. We could hear the skating rhythms being played as they went around and around. From our vantage point we couldn't see inside the skating rinks but we could imagine the fun the youngsters were having.
We are still here and many people don't like our seeds floating all over the place, especially on the golf greens at Emerald Hills. We will continue to send out our seeds and know that, like us, a few will drop, develop and grow and hopefully they can be around for 100 years to see all the development of the area. When we were just saplings, who could imagine what it would be at our age now? If only the trees could talk!