Are we about to have the wool pulled over our eyes? Have we been bamboozled by Mother Nature? Are these dogwood and wisteria blossoms figments of my imagination?
I mean it’s mid-March and already we’re seeing things we should be seeing a month from now. Even so, I’ll take what I can get and enjoy it while I can even if it all gets blistered by a cold snap a few days or weeks down the road.
Spring is the time of year I have always loved. Even as a lad, when green started showing up in the yard and flowers started showing, it was time to do something my mama frowned on. I’d slip off my shoes and socks and let the tender green grass tickle my yet tender toes.
Later in the year, I could walk down the gravel road in front of the house barefoot and never feel the rocks beneath my feet. I’ve even done the macho thing of striking a match on the bottom of my leather-tough bare foot in July but it’s the first shedding of shoes in spring I remember most.
Growing up, spring meant watching daddy plow up the garden spot behind the house. I can now close my eyes and smell the aroma of freshly turned earth where later peas, corn and potatoes would grow. If you grew up in the country like I did, I’ll bet you remember what that smelled like. The plow exposed the dark damp soil beneath the surface that gave up an aroma that’s hard to describe.
Spring also meant it was time to go out to the cowbarn with a shovel and tin can. You didn’t have to dig deep. It was a simple task to flip over the dried cow patties there to expose the hiding place of earthworms and it didn’t take long to uncover enough to handle the task that lay ahead.
Half a mile through the woods behind our home lay twin ribbons of steel where the old L&A steam locomotive pulling a string of box cars as it struggled and chugged up Oskosh Hill. Crossing the tracks and stepping down through a thicket to an enchanted place where beeches and oaks shaded Molido, a clear winding stream invited me, my brother and cousins to dangle hooks skewered with red wigglers to entice the interest of what lurked beneath these cool dark waters.
We didn’t catch bluegills or chinquapins or crappie in Molido’s dark holes. We caught goggle eyes, red perch, jackfish and an occasional mud cat. Bluegills and chinquapins lived in the lake but Molido was reserved for the “creek” fish we caught.
Once the weather warmed enough for us, but not for our mamas, we’d sneak off, strip down to bare skin and go swimming in one particular deep hole in the little creek. After a swim, it was necessary before we made the walk back home where we would feign innocence so our mamas wouldn’t know we had broken their rules about swimming too early, we made sure our hair had time to dry out. Otherwise, we knew we had been caught and a stern lecture, sometimes accompanied by a thin limber switch from the hedge outside the door, would be waiting.
That was yesterday. No more cow patties to overturn, cane fishing poles and earthworms and the aroma of freshly turned garden earth. Sneaking off to go barefoot on fresh green grass or swimming in the creek are obviously no longer part of my life but I would take absolutely nothing for the memories of these special things I experienced while growing up out on the rural route decades ago.
Well darn — it looks like Mother Nature is sneaking another cold spell in on us. Thirties next week? C’mon now! We don’t need that.
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