Fruit Snacks

When I was a kid, my family and I would travel from Park Falls to Minocqua, Wisconsin to go shopping. On these trips, I would look out the window when I was not reading. We would drive an hour across State Highway 70 through the scenic Riley Lake Wildlife Management Area, a 1,252 area of bogs, spruce trees, and acidic Muskeg soil. I always distinctly remember the Tamarack bogs, where spindly yellow trees contrasted sharply with the green grass they grew past. Sometimes, I imagined these bogs would overtake the earth, spreading the thin trees across the globe, their full tops seemingly overshadowed by their lank trunks. Yet, somehow, they would overpower, despite great odds. These bogs contrasted sharply with conifer groves of blue spruce trees and balsams. Swatches of poplars were also common, as well as stands of maple and alder thickets. I marveled at the different trees and grasses, and felt an affinity for the boggy landscape. I used to walk through similar bogs with my grandfather when we went fishing. The cold, clear water seeped through my shoes as I walked through the bog to get to his john boat.
I looked forward to maybe going to Book World, or one of the local book shops, yet I was never excited about going to Walmart. Some things never change. Trigs was a different story. The supermarket seemed huge compared to those in Park Falls. The colorful produce section was twice as large to my young eyes, the bakery was a wonderland of sights and smells, and there were so many other products stocked on the shelves.
One of my favorite snacks to eat was Betty Crocker Shark Bites Fruit Snacks. I'd scarf the tart and sugary snacks, always searching for the not-so elusive Great White, perhaps because it is stark, white, and opaque, unlike the other more translucent shark shapes in the packages. The flavor escapes me, but others say that it is sometimes the same flavor as the others. I have not eaten Shark Bites or any other Fruit Snacks in a long time. A few years ago I revisited them, and my adult palate and teeth were not up to the challenge. Yet they were a major part of my youth as I traveled with my parents into a world of sights, sounds, and tastes that were still new to me. At times, I miss those days. As we returned home, I would sit in the back seat as the dark night of the world rushed by, eating those treats as oldies music played on the radio. I was safe in a cocoon away from the world, not imagining what the years ahead would bring, but thinking of those Shark Bites, the trees, and the rushing flash of a darkened night road beneath a Northwoods sky.


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