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COUNTY AGENT GUY

By Staff | Feb 24, 2017

As I write this, the area where we live is suffering an extended spell of mild midwinter weather. I say “suffering” because, as we in the Midwest all know, no nice weather ever goes unpunished. We’re going to pay for this; it’s just a matter of when and how.

I go for my daily constitutional with our dog and am astounded by the large flocks of unseasonable geese. Crowds of the birdbrains are everywhere, their noisome squawking flooding the senses. It reminds me of Black Friday at the mall.

Looking up at the geese, I wonder: do they know something we don’t? Have their instincts, which have been honed over the eons, correctly guided them to be at this place at this time?

Or are they just a bunch of featherbrained aerialists who have no idea what they’re doing and are simply following their leader, some guy named Stu who flunked Seasonal Migration 101?

I think perhaps the latter. We veteran Northerners know better than to trust an early warm spell such as this. We know that winter is simply lulling us into a false sense of security and will unexpectedly leap out at us from the shadows, hold us down and give us all noogies.

The official scientific explanation from the Weather Service is a bit more technical, but that’s the gist of it.

An old proverb in these parts goes “A robin has to have three snows on its back before it can be spring.” I have lived here long enough to state unequivocally that this adage could perhaps be sort of possibly true.

Some years ago, it appeared that spring had arrived early. I say “appeared” because winter is the world’s sneakiest bait-and-switch artist. Also the most sadistic.

I was so thoroughly convinced that spring had sprung that I had pulled out our grain drill and began to ready it for the small grain planting season.

The robins had returned, occupying our grove in such numbers that some of the larger tree limbs were groaning and creaking under the load.

Then came a ferocious three-day blizzard. Once the storm had passed, I used our loader to clear a path to our grain bins. The loader exposed a small swatch of black dirt, which immediately filled with hopping robins. As they eagerly “listened” for worms, I wondered if any of them were thinking, “If only we had stayed south for another month! We should never have listened to that dimwit Stu.”

When I was in fourth-grade, we had a winter that bestowed us with an immense abundance of snow. My classmates and I built sprawling snow forts and dug a complex of snow tunnels, yet still had an embarrassing wealth of leftover snow.

One day, our principal, Mr. Thompson, came to our classroom and made a stern announcement. Mr. Thompson had a posture which seemed to indicate that his spine was made entirely of titanium. He sported a flattop hairdo that appeared to have been installed with the aid of a laser level. Thanks to his military bearing, all of his announcements were stern.

Mr. Thompson warned us, in dire tones, that our recent balmy weather had compromised the internal structure of the snowdrifts on our playground. As I recall, he actually used the word “rotten” to describe the snow’s condition.

He dolefully gave an account of an unwitting boy who had tromped onto a deep drift and had sank into it past his ankles, tragically filling his shoes with snow. Even more alarming, said Mr. Thompson, was a report of another luckless lad who became mired in snow up to his waist and had to be rescued from an icy grave by his alert pals.

Mr. Thompson’s warning had the opposite of its intended effect. It was as if he had said, “I double-dog dare you to stomp across those rotten snowdrifts.”

When recess came, we flocked to the snowbanks like robins drawn to a patch of bare dirt. Amidst squeals of glee, dozens of kids became the victims of snowdrift cave-ins. Innumerable shoes were filled with snow.

Some of the kids who sank into the deepest drifts had to be “rescued.” These rescues were often conducted with extreme enthusiasm, with the victims being hauled out so vigorously that snow was forced in beneath waistbands.

Oh, the humanity. But oh, what fun.

By the end of that day, Mr. Thomson’s warnings were no longer needed; the snowdrifts had been trampled into piles of gray slush.

And despite the balmy weather, we knew that winter would return. Because it can’t be spring until a fourth-grader has had at least three snows down his back.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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