MINNEAPOLIS - Still only in its ninth month, 2020 already is considered one of the worst years - ever.
Granted, the period between 1347 and 1351, when the Black Death wiped some 200 million people off the face of the earth, was no picnic.
Also, smallpox killed 10 million Mexicans after the Spanish introduced the disease to them in 1520. The Holocaust cost 6 million Jews their lives between 1941 and 1945. And the Spanish flu beginning in 1918 reduced the world's population by some 100 million.
So maybe with historical perspective 2020 isn't as bad as we think - except that hurricane season hasn't yet ended, the West Coast is very much on fire, the COVID-19 pandemic is still in play, and in 50 days we'll have a no-holds-barred grudge match otherwise known as a presidential election.
Yet, amid this havoc, good news surfaced last week when the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced that the state's pheasant population, measured by its August roadside counts, jumped some 42% from last year.
More impressive, ringneck numbers in the state's southwest corner rocketed skyward 146% compared with a year ago.
Pessimists who believe such pretty-bird upticks are minor news weighed against everything else that has occurred this year should reconsider, because a consortium of positive environmental and weather factors had to align to boost pheasant (and other farmland wildlife) numbers - considerations that also benefited people.
Additionally, a retrospective dating to the 1920s suggests that in years when pheasant numbers jumped, the nation's economy and political fortunes also rose.
So perhaps 2020 will yet end on an upbeat note. Or at least be better than the downer it's been to date.
Consider first conditions that set the stage for this year's pheasant bounce: