Life was good, the weather fine, a cool, stiff south wind making our walk pleasant indeed as random thoughts ran through my consciousness, not unlike the dogs sliding in and out of Sunken Meadow’s dense wetland perimeter.
Driving in, the two Canada geese Chubby’s been playing with for months were for the first time in the upper hayfield, near the greenhouses. They stood tall and alert as we passed them on the farm road, and remained upright after I had parked and released the dogs for our romp. After walking just less than a mile around the southern lot, seeing a mink scamper along a beaver dam, and returning to the truck parked along a thin hardwood stand overlooking the smaller northern sunken meadow, Chubby stood there with a beggar’s countenance. He obviously wanted to continue, and so we did to the nice house at the corner, then down into our second bottomland meadow along a Green River flowing with lusty vigor after the rains that so brightened the landscape.
As we approached the path down into the meadow, I heard the geese honking their warning call upwind from me and wondered if Chubby was onto them. He wasn’t, so we took the gravel path below. After circling the lower field and finding yet another splendid fiddlehead patch for next year — distinctive, mature, light-green ostrich ferns are always easy to spot standing tall and proud following spring rain — we climbed back to the upper hayfield and Chubby immediately sprinted into the crosswind along a split-rail fence. About 100 yards later, he caught wind of the geese, probably 80 yards west, southwest of him. He came to a screeching halt, changed direction, ran diagonally into the wind and flushed the geese, which flew briefly into the wind, swung west, then north before circling over me and following the river south.
We returned to the truck, where I boxed the dogs and turned the key for the trip home. Approaching the greenhouses, Red Allen and the boys (including the late, great Jerry Garcia for a couple of tunes on the “Bluegrass Revival” CD), broke into that cautionary chorus to “She’s No Angel,” sung by many a man for more than a century. The chorus goes:
She’s no angel, no angel, her wings are not real.
She’ll ruin your life, it’s your heart she can steal.
She’ll tell you tales to bring tears to your eyes.
So don’t you believe them ’cause they’re only lies.
Tell me, fellas, what man can’t relate to that refrain? Only liars. But, hey, when you think of it, most of us have played the role of victim and perpetrator, so why dwell on mundane, trivial matters? We all get through it and have fun along the way. Those who can take it even mock it in song, fiddle sarcastically giggling, cutting right through you.
Anyway, I got home, parked, kenneled the dogs, got the mail and went inside, where I put tea water on, dug out a tea bag from a delicate little pottery bowl next to a five-pound jar of Apex Orchards honey (can’t beat it, 22 bucks, cheapest I’ve found; tasty, too) to get my Tom White mug prepared for the pouring, the golden honey beautifully illuminated by a soft ray of light entering the window. The only mail of interest was the American Political Biography catalog I look forward to each month. I figured I’d quickly peruse it my tea before heading to the study to write my column. Two straight days had brought something enticing in the mail — on Tuesday the May/June “Orion” magazine immediately captivated me long enough to read two long essays, stuff about nature/culture/place that everyone should read and, sadly, few do. Also a Wendell Berry short story to save for a rainy day.
Waiting for the water to boil, I went to the woodshed and brought in two hefty armloads of locust, among Blue Sky’s finest, more on its way, all dry, some even seasoned gray, big-time BTUs, even if the stove’s inhaling dying breaths. When the teapot whistled, I filled my mug with steaming water, stirred in the honey with a grooved wooden dipper and temporarily retired to my aging green La-Z-Boy by the southern window. There I scanned the catalog and marked books that piqued my curiosity while the tea steeped. After circling maybe 10 titles in pencil, I thought it high time to write down all the subjects that had passed through my mind during my solitary morning walk. When complete it read like this: “honey, geese, mink, wood, lawn, trimming, American Political Biography, Orion, salmon, trout, turkeys, Debs, Randolph, Clavamox 250 mg;” all potential topics worth touching upon this week. Imagine that: six already in the rearview. Sweet.
Today, with the four-week spring turkey-hunting season set to open Monday, and given what I witnessed this past weekend (104 miles logged), why not start with wild turkeys? To begin with, I’m predicting a record harvest, maybe even our first of 3,000 or better. I saw big birds everywhere, traveling through Greenfield, Bernardston, Northfield, Leyden, Colrain, Shelburne, Conway, Ashfield, Williamsburg, Whately, and Deerfield. Yup, quite a country tour it was; productive indeed, many toms in full-strutting splendor. Boys will be boys. With little winter mortality due to favorable snowless conditions and easy access to nutritious winter mast supplies, there should be many boss toms and plump jakes for the picking, all superb table fare if prepared right, and some trophies for the den. There will be no excuses this year despite limited forest sight-lines clogged by fully foliated undergrowth, the only negative opening-day factor I can decipher. Well, of course, it could always rain, but that would be only a temporary setback during a 24-day season.
As for trout and salmon and shad, well, it’s happenin’, Dude. The stocking trucks will fatten up the Deerfield River high and low this week, and the only other local waters scheduled for trout are lakes Wyola and Laurel. Since quoting outfitter Chris Jackson’s favorable remarks about the status of Deerfield trout-fishing last week, I have bumped into others singing praise of perhaps our best trout fishery, though some prefer the Millers River Watershed. Those I have spoken to in my travels say the river bed was altered for the better in many places by Irene, with new channels, runs and pools to hold trout and lure anglers. Plus, there seems to be much mention of a fish I once worshipped — Deerfield River browns, those big, wild brown trout that are elusive indeed but well worth pursuing while most are dreaming and snoring. Supposedly, our best local flyfishers have been hooking into these fish more often than in the past, if you can believe them. I do. The fishery does exist, the boys I have spoken to are “in touch,” and I have no reason to doubt their assessment, having long ago “been there, done that” myself.
Regarding our anadromous-fish — shad and salmon — the news seems good as well. Well, as good as it gets in these, the days of paltry returns. The Holyoke fish lift opened on April 13 and, through Tuesday, seven Atlantic salmon and more than 36,000 shad had been counted in the river system. Salmon have thus far showed up at the Rainbow Dam (1) on Connecticut’s Farmington River and the Holyoke Dam (6). With river temperatures still in the mid-50s Fahrenheit, there’s plenty of time left. The runs annually peak at between 65 and 70 degrees. Can’t say I expect as many as 200 salmon or 300,000 shad. I hope I’m wrong.
Moving to my “lawn” and “trimming” notes, they’re references to yard work, which has been under way for weeks, beginning with pruning the raspberries and blueberries, sumptuous additions to morning cereal and muffins, even midday salads. I mowed on a whim for the first time Friday, before the greening deluge, so that’s now a part of the weekly routine I never dread; and, my, how that rain doubled the rhubarb growth overnight. Amazing! I love me some rhubarb crisp. But there are still a few loose ends here and there, stuff like trimming back the flowering bushes and raking leaves out from under the large tulip magnolia, which can no longer conceal the natural fertilizer blown underneath thanks to that Oct. 31 snowstorm that snapped off its low branches. Nature has a way of thinning out tangled webs.
Regarding the “Clavamox 250 mg” on my list, that’s Lily’s antibiotic, the three-week run nearly complete. It looks like the UTI is behind her. We’ll see if it comes back. I sure hope not. I got the medicine without visiting the vet, always a money-saver; well, unless it doesn’t work. Then there’ll be a steep price to pay. But Lily isn’t peeing often or displaying any of the tell-tale signs of a UTI, so I’ll cross my fingers and hope.
Well, that’s about all I’ve got this week. Back to “Edward Randolph and the American Colonies 1676-1703,” a “tweener” on my reading list. Having finished the Eugene Debs biography I mentioned last week, I’m awaiting the arrival of “The Trial of Socrates,” by I.F. Stone of Sixties “Bi-Weekly” fame. I’ve wanted to read it before, just never followed through. Why now? Well, Debs was imprisoned for free-speech issues here in America during the reactionary World War I era. Socrates was executed for similar issues in ancient Greece, the birthplace of democratic freedom, liberty and justice, all of which can take a turn for the worse during wartime. If you don’t believe it, ask the fellas caged at Gitmo, if you can get near them.
Oooops. Better go before I myself end up in the sunny South … and, damn, I didn’t even get to that Koch Brothers documentary I was invited to preview Sunday at the Bernardston Unitarian Church. Oh well, maybe next week.
Quite an image, huh? Me in a Christian church on Sunday. I hope there are no photos. Bad for my image.