Spring Fever

I finally got back on my feet over the weekend and celebrated my newfound mobility by inhaling our tasty March-brown February, rare indeed, while traversing the western hills through Colrain, Shelburne, Conway, Whately, South Ashfield and a little corner of Williamsburg; my country, stained throughout by ancient family DNA, sugarhouses belching dense steam skyward along the way, reiterating that spring has sprung.

I was, among other things, looking for turkeys, but saw nary a one and, of course, also made a couple of stops at my private little bookshop, adding to the piles accumulating on my study floor, also atop a formal, parlor, cherry chest of drawers, Chippendale with a splash of Queen Anne. I fear that soon I’ll start getting those looks and hearing it from my wife: time to start organizing, getting things in order for B&B season. Oh well, I guess we all need a conscience, although I seem to do just fine, thank you, without adult supervision; always have, no matter what my critics say. But when you think of it, wouldn’t life be boring without enemies?

I found interesting the feedback I received about my perspective on how our founding fathers, at least the radical “Old Revolutionaries” like Sam Adams and Patrick Henry, would have viewed our current situation — “Occupy Wall Street” gang in one corner, presidential candidates raking in $60K a day for not working in the other. As the mainstream news bludgeons these “Occupiers” daily as a new breed of filthy, immoral, malingering scum, I get the sense that the Happy Valley soul embraces them and takes issue with the infantile “get a job” harangues from the right. Happy Valleyites seem more inclined to implore the “One-Percenters” to get a life, maybe find a conscience. Doesn’t Mitt Romney symbolize this Harris tweed and wingtip crowd to a T, not a care in the world or speck of dirt under a fingernail, living on the backs of non-union labor? Isn’t our former governor a poster child for the kind of folks our founders feared most when they fought the victorious Federalist movement? As for the other guy, that Keystone State loon somehow surging in the polls, well, I’m not sure what he represents other than backward thinking that lacerates my sovereign soul with bolts of fear from the heavens. The man claims to be a guardian of freedom, religious and otherwise. That is, of course, unless it involves the right to choose or use birth control, if you can imagine that in the year of our Lord 2012. Huh? Are you kidding me? But, hey, enough of that stuff, back to a less perilous path.

I must admit my spirit has been lifted, my imagination stirred recently by bluegrass music blasting through my new truck’s sound system. It’s a feature of the vehicle I’m really enjoying, the lively fiddle, banjo and mandolin riffs making nice rides better, more alluring and uplifting. My other truck had a CD player that didn’t work. Truth be told, that I discovered after burning a stack of CDs for the road. So now, after sitting unused for three or four years in a black faux-leather sleeve attached to the driver’s-side visor, they’re finally in use: all timeless, ageless stuff like Newgrass Revival, Nashville Bluegrass Band and Hot Rize, old standbys like Doc Watson, Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley, and, yes, of course, rock hybrids with folksy roots, the likes of Jorma and Garcia. Some of those bluegrass instrumentals are so inspiring on a bright, sunny spring day that they make me — a bashful non-dancer — feel like jumping to my feet and kicking up my heels Bill Monroe style. You must know that quick, free-spirited shuffle I saw him demonstrate well into his 80s, little stutter-steps on his toes, a sort of jig, I guess, him totally consumed by the music, not unlike the unfettered hippie chick, free and easy, daisy in her long wavy hair, floating around in those torn, faded, loose-fitting denim bibs, splattering around rust-colored Woodstock mud, lost in a place it’s always fun to visit. Some fellas caught wind of a woman like that and instinctively followed their noses straight to the source. Others said, “Phew!” and hunted the aroma of some chemical flower invented in New Jersey or Wilmington, Del., two places I lived and hope never to revisit. Myself, I always preferred pheromones over perfume. But that’s just me, a strange bird indeed.

Speaking of which, I have found this interesting bookbinder dude who repairs old books for a reasonable fee. That’s right, a book repairman with a conscience, straight out of Boston’s prestigious Bennett Street School, no less, which teaches new folks old trades. The man can fix a chipped spine in a jiffy, and he won’t rob you for tougher binding work. Not only that but the guy’s fun to talk to, as most bookbinders I’ve run into are. Anyway, his name is John Nove. Look him up sometime. He lives on Mountain Road in South Deerfield. But enough of that. Back to the narrative.

I can’t say I’m concerned about the disappearance of turkeys along our byways during this strangest of winters. That subject, too, has stirred up an email flurry, all of it confirming what I’ve been seeing and was first alerted to by a Conway observer living in the heart of primo turkey country. Just because the big birds aren’t visible where typically found this time of year — around silage piles or in freshly manured fields — doesn’t mean something devastating has occurred. No, our turkeys are just fine, free to roam just about anywhere on the snowless terrain. A neighbor and farmer reported seeing a flock of at least 50 feeding last week in a secluded cornfield while he and his wife were walking the back 40. It won’t be long before the five to seven gobblers that left tracks where I walk, not far away, will be sparring for the most desirable hens from that big winter flock. That will be good news to my buddy, Killer, who hunts with permission on adjacent land.

On a related subject, in closing, something else about that acreage I daily traipse. Back on Day 4 of shotgun deer season, when I was still taking it easy after a little health wake-up call, I bumped into a nice little 4-pointer — a pronghorn — while walking the dogs at about 10 a.m. Little Chubby, who had kicked out two nice swamp bucks during pheasant season, was standing motionless at attention as I came around the corner near a beech tree I often wrote about this past summer. I noticed his alert stance and thought, “Gee, he’s got a noseful of something.” A few steps later, I heard rustling in the bushes and figured it was probably Lily chasing a rabbit on the other side of an impenetrable rosebush border. Then I caught a white flash and movement through brush on the sidehill ascending from the marsh and — sure enough! — the pronghorn I’d seen two or three times on the way home from work at night, feeding alone near large, round, plastic-wrapped hay bales in a field less than a half-mile away. Never again after that Thursday morning did I see that little buck, but I knew he was around through blackpowder season because I found his tracks in the mud several times; distinctive prints, typically spread at the toes with prominent heel imprints. Then they disappeared. Part of the reason could have been that the ground and shallow snow had frozen solid. But, still, I sensed that deer was gone and I had a difficult time accepting it, given all the available feed. On the plain above are vast clover-laced hayfields and a standing cornfield, large, stately red oaks and acorns along the lip overlooking the sunken, marsh-bordered, lower meadow, apples here and there, sumac drupes scattered along the lowland perimeter. Why would a deer leave such a sumptuous winter buffet?

Well, in fact, as suspected, that deer didn’t go far. I finally bumped into him Monday morning while walking the dogs along a new route I’ve been exploring recently. Walking north along the tree line overlooking the Green River toward a smaller sunken meadow, Chubby and Lily were romping about when I decided on a whim to walk right to the edge of a steep drop-off to get a clear view of the meadow below, no leaves and underbrush to obscure my view. No sooner had I stopped than I caught movement out of the corner of my right eye and, yes, I’d bet my house it was that bald pronghorn scooting away toward a small patch of woods between the two disconnected, sunken riverside meadows. A creature as large as a deer would likely have to enter the river to get from one meadow to the other, unless looping back through the upper hayfields. Anyway, my opinion is that that deer finally got tired of my twice-daily December romps through the other location and moved to a place without the constant disruptions. The way that deer fled Monday told me it was not the first time he had encountered us or heard my shrill staghorn whistles. There was no hint of terror in his gait, just a free and easy jog to wooded cover.

Who knows? Maybe I’m wrong. But I doubt it. I’ve been around the block a few times and have always been a careful observer. That young buck was likely born in those beaver-infested, riverside wetlands he now calls home most of the year. The only exception is during the fall rut, when he wanders off searching for that arousing scent left by his own version of wayward hippie chicks dancing to primal mating tunes.

Truth is we’ve all played that game, no matter what the Republicans preach.

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One Response to Spring Fever

  1. Ken

    Well said!!

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