The freakishly fine weather we've been enjoying this past winter and spring has left many of us on edge.
We denizens of the North are a naturally skeptical people. Not only will we look a gift horse in the mouth, we'll also inspect the area behind the freebie equine to see what sort of mess it's made. "If it's too good to be true, it probably is" are words we live by.
Pleasant weather makes us suspicious and causes us to worry over what Mother Nature will do to make us pay for it. Experience has taught us that no nice weather ever goes unpunished.
While many are waiting for the other shoe to drop, there are some who believe that we have paid it forward regarding our weather. It's tempting to think that previous nasty winters built up goodwill that we are now cashing in, but many of us can't imagine that our climate could ever be so benevolent.
I recently overheard an older lady say to her companion, "When my daughter was a senior in high school they had to call off the prom on account of a blizzard. And that was on April 25th."
If such a storm happened before, we know that it's only a matter of time before it happens again. This would be a huge relief for many of us. Waiting for the ax to fall can be almost as agonizing as the actual bite of the blade.
Despite our ingrained tendency toward caution, gardeners and grain farmers have been making the most of these mild conditions. There are more than a few homeowners who mowed their lawns during the waning days of March. Not that their lawns needed mowing, mind you; it was mainly so that said homeowners could claim bragging rights.
My Grandpa Hammer, who lived a long life and saw a lot of winters, once told me that he could recall numerous springs when he had all his oats seeded by the end of March. I shared this information with Dad, who pointed out that while his father-in-law was certainly telling the truth, he had failed to furnish some crucial context.
"They would just bounce across the corn stalks with a light little horse-drawn disk," said Dad. "And the horses never got stuck, so if it was wet you could farm right up to the edge of the water. Then they would scatter the seed with a broadcast seeder and disk it in. And when they were done you couldn't hardly tell that they'd done anything!"
Dad went on to tell of a spring when he was a boy and field work commenced particularly early. A late blizzard roared down from Siberia and the grain drill, which had been hastily abandoned on the headland, was buried beneath a snowdrift.
For some reason this story gave me more comfort than Grandpa's tale of spectacularly early seedings. I guess that's due to our Northern attitude of "It could be worse. Just wait and see."
Migratory waterfowl seem to agree that we are indeed having an early spring. But what would a bunch of birdbrains know?
One year, when our boys were young, we had an early shot of spring. This proved premature when we were assailed by a vicious snowstorm.
While finishing chores in the midst of the blizzard, I saw something huddled behind a sliding door: a half-frozen lesser Canada goose. I scooped up the luckless avian and installed him in our basement.
Our boys were delighted with our new tenant. Not knowing what migratory waterfowl might eat, they offered him Cheetos, which the goose gobbled greedily. Who knew that honkers were junk food junkies?
The weather finally cleared, and none too soon. Our cellar dweller had quickly worn out his welcome with his constant honking and innumerable goose doots.
We took the goose outside and tossed him up into the bright sunshine. As he swooped gracefully skyward, we congratulated ourselves for having saved his feathered neck.
But the silly goose didn't leave! He circled once, then landed on our front lawn. Our cat thought this meant goose for dinner and began to stalk the bird. The goose fixed the feline with an expression that said "you idiot!" and fluttered off a short distance. This was repeated several times, much to our amusement.
Our act of goodwill and benevolence didn't go unpunished: the next spring and for every spring thereafter, the slough near our house has reverberated with the noisome honks of an ever-growing flock of Canada geese.
But we tell ourselves that it could be worse. Because at least they aren't in the basement.