Flower Power

It’s that hopeful time of year when things are happening and, no, I haven’t given up on Bull Head Pond. In fact, I have exciting new discoveries about that forgotten spot, now in a different location, just a stone’s throw from the 20th century pond called Bull Head that I reluctantly accepted as the one last week. But, please, let’s give it a rest. Other seasonal fare on my plate, including salmon mischief.

To start with, my front yard is unusually colorful this week, adorned in various shades of red cast by ornamental trees along the southern perimeter. Rarely do they simultaneously glow like this year. Even the fading yellow forsythia is still hanging in there, perhaps due to lack of rain. Although that was expected to change overnight, the bush as I now see it is still bright yellow, though with a much greener underbody than a week ago. There it sits, like a tabletop bouquet beneath outstretched limbs of a mellow magenta apple and one of the large, deep-red Japanese-maple twins. Three ornamental cherries lined toward the west corner add a soft, seductive pink, while the shedding saucer magnolia of a similar hue way around the eastern side is visible across a panoramic view, just a small splash of delicate red quince blossoms dabbed in between. Spring bloom is always inspiring, cool, comfortable air flowing through the windows front to back, bulkhead wide open to allow damp winter spirits an escape route up the quiet stone stairs, leaving behind devilish remnants to ricochet about and stir introspection like bubbles emerging from a foamy root-beer float disrupted by a kid blowing down a straw.

Although dry thus far, it has been an otherwise textbook spring, the fiddleheads now long gone, replaced by tall ostrich ferns that seem to grow a foot in a few days once the tight clumps of tasty morsels clinging to the ground sprout and leap to the sun. With that savory treat in the rearview, asparagus is in, necessitating many trips back to old stomping grounds dominated by the Sugarloafs, north and south, which always bring cozy karma. Although I no longer live there, it’s not far and’ll always be branded deep into my soul. I could really feel the homey vibes at a Sunday-night farm wedding I attended in an old friend’s tented Hillside Road backyard, bordered on the north by Jackson Road and the headwater marsh from which infamous Bloody Brook springs atop the Long Hill plain known before my day as Turnip Yard.

I don’t want to meander off the rails but why is it that I suspect it’ll be a good year for fruit and berries? I have no fancy degrees in anything related to the subject but thus far it just seems like the kind of spring that will bring bountiful fruit, that’s all. If so, it promises to be a good year for the pesticide-free raspberries and blueberries along my western border. Then again, maybe not. Who knows? A lot can happen between now and then. Hasn’t that been obvious of late, when there seems to be no limit to weather weirdness.

Hopping back to the present, word has it that some fellas are having a tough time of it turkey hunting for boss gobblers that “henned-up” a week before the season. I knew from casual observation that this phenomenon had occurred, because I had on my way to work seen a boisterous longbeard showing off nightly for five or six lovely ladies in “POSTED” corn stubble. My friend tried to kill that gobbler a few mornings last week and departed muttering to himself, and me on the phone, before moving on. His biggest obstacle was restriction from the forbidden abutting property, where the birds are roosting and gallivanting daily. He was close enough to get old Tom-Tom all jacked up — the big bird gobbling his fool head off and moving in my buddy’s direction before digging his long, stubborn spurs in and “hanging up” along a bushy fence row. From there, the big bird demanded that my buddy come to him, no matter how love-sick his plaintive yelps sounded. Oh well, they say patience is a virtue. If my pal sticks in there and doesn’t get frustrated or impulsive, he may yet catch that big boss tom at a weak moment fueled by hormonal imbalance. I’d say the odds are against him, though, given the territorial disadvantage facing him. The dynamic is simple to understand. Suppose you were playing the role of gluttonous Arabian sheikh settled into a comfortable honeymoon suite for the weekend with a young, attractive harem of five serving oh-so faithfully. Would you, savoring this amorous arrangement, answer an old girlfriend’s telephone call, a mistress’s rap on the door? My friend’s guttural chuckle suggested the answer.

Which reminds me: another friend wanted me to know that his father told him to tell “Old Bull Head” that his shad bush is blooming. I knew, had actually seen the flowers in my travels. But I didn’t need that harbinger to announce the arrival of migratory shad and salmon. Daily email reports have kept me informed. Through Tuesday, the daily anadromous-fish report I receive said 79,000 shad and 12 salmon had passed Holyoke, where the water temperature read 61.7 Fahrenheit, edging on optimal.

With the spawning runs building to a peak, go figure, it leads me straight into a risqué subject some may find alluring. You’ve probably heard or read by now that the aggressive, half-century, federal and state Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon-Restoration Program came to an abrupt halt last year. Yes sir, it seems that the program’s most devoted true-believers could no longer justify the expense during hard times fueled by unfunded wars and diabolical Wall Street schemes, so they just up and pulled the freakin’ plug. That doesn’t mean salmon will immediately stop migrating. Not yet, anyway. Now, following decades of coordinated efforts to capture salmon and medicate them to prime health with chemicals before overseeing controlled spawning (artificial mixing of milt and eggs) and ubiquitous stocking of hatchery-reared progeny in tributaries up and down the valley, fisheries officials must sit back and see what transpires.

As expected, the salmon run hasn’t just halted because crews are no longer traveling back and forth to fish passageways to transport captured returnees to Sunderland’s Cronin Salmon Station. To the contrary, salmon are indeed still migrating upriver, and 12 thus far are swimming above Holyoke. Think about that for a minute. Wouldn’t it be interesting if these aristocratic fish of the North Atlantic keep coming for years to come and, in fact, ultimately start returning in greater numbers than when well-meaning scientists insisted upon human intervention and micro-management — capturing, carting, medicating and “artificially” spawning wild fish in a controlled Christian manner that may not have been wise. That’s not to suggest that the current “au-naturel” method will turn out to be a better route to the original restoration goal of creating a viable sport fishery. All I’m saying is that I would laugh out loud if it turns out that way. And I can’t say I’ve never opined right here, based solely on good old-fashioned common sense, that maybe those fish they were imprisoning would be better off left alone to spawn in natural settings. Yes, I had the audacity to speculate that perhaps wild fish would do better spawning in the Sawmill or South or Bear, the Deerfield or Millers rivers than confined at Cronin Station in boring, sterile, cement tanks, raceways and indoor pools.

It’s true that Atlantic salmon will most likely soon than later stop migrating up our Connecticut River basin now that the funding has vanished, marking the end of an altruistic, half-century experiment that has been fading off into the sunset for decades. Then again, maybe, just maybe, there’ll be a miracle of sorts and the salmon will keep coming, with numbers gradually increasing to an levels approaching what the scientific community desired way back when but could not deliver.

Yes, wouldn’t that development be hilarious indeed, not to mention totally understandable to those who worship freedom and liberty and autonomy in its purest forms, minus the red, white and blue nonsense?

All I can say is that as the preachers and politicians weep, I’ll be laughing hysterically if those taxpayer-funded Connecticut River-strain salmon start running like gangbusters after gaining creative freedom for the most private of matters.

What a hoot that would be, huh? Proving one more time that missionary-style ain’t for everyone.

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