Archived Story

Beware the Ides of March and skunk farms

Published 1:25pm Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Column: Tales from Exit 22

March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.

March comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion.

Quick! No looking it up. What was the first day of March like?

We’re not good at remembering, are we? Chances are, it came in like a lion or a lamb. Or maybe it came in like a moose. A moose is in between a lion and a lamb. Sometimes March comes in like a lion and leaves like a moose. Or it comes in like a lamb and leaves like a moose. Or it comes in like a moose and leaves like a lion. Or it comes in like a moose and leaves like a lamb. Or March could arrive like a moose and depart like a moose. That’s why meteorologists are so confused. March is confusing.

March is when I see chipbucks out of their burrows. That’s right — chipbucks. We have so many deer that they are breeding with chipmunks. The result is a little rodent with a large white tail and huge antlers. Chipbucks are found only within the friendly confines of the township in which I reside. Their population remains small because their antlers make it impossible for the chipbucks to get back into their burrows as the entrances are too small. They become wedged in the holes and fall prey to hungry coyotes.

My birthday is March 16. That’s no big deal. Everybody was born on one day or another. Although, as everyone who was born in March knows, there are two kinds of people — those who were born in March and those who wish they had been.

What makes my birthday a bit odd is that it’s on the same date each year — thanks to my knuckle-headed stubbornness. I called Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!, but they didn’t believe me. We all have our blind spots.

March 16 falls between March 15 and March 17. Chronological order is an amazing concept. March 15 is the Ides of March. March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day.

A soothsayer’s warning to Julius Caesar, “Beware the Ides of March,” has forever imbued March 15 with a sense of foreboding.

However, in Julius Caesar’s time, the expression “Ides of March” didn’t evoke a dark mood. What it was, was the standard way of saying “March 15.” Ides referred to the 15th day of March, May, July, and October or the 13th day of the other months in the ancient Roman calendar.

Here in the Greater Hartland Area, where the snow removal plan is called “June,” we’re much more likely to refer to the hides of March. April March had a mink farm just outside of town. She raised a few mink and many skunks. She discovered a way to disguise the fur pelts of a skunk and sell them as mink. A fur coat made from skunk was fetching and warm.

The problem was that when the skunk fur became wet, it smelled like skunk. You didn’t want to be caught in the rain while wearing one of April March’s fur coats. A common caveat to a coat shopper hoping to fend off the cold was, “Beware the hides of March.”

I share my birthday with St. Urho’s Day that originated in Minnesota in the 1950s and has grown among those of Finnish descent to the point where it is celebrated across the United States, Canada and Finland. St. Urho chased the grasshoppers out of Finland, saving the grape crop and the jobs of vineyard workers.

The day is celebrated by wearing purple and green colors. St. Urho is typically represented with grapes and grasshoppers — often with a grasshopper impaled on a pitchfork. That is the preferred method used by pest exterminators specializing in grasshopper removal.

St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and is credited with driving the snakes out of Ireland. In the fifth century, Patrick used his staff to herd the slithering creatures into the sea, banishing them for eternity. It’s doubtful that there were ever snakes in Ireland, so that was likely the easiest job Patrick ever had, especially since he made his staff do it.

We wear the green and sport shamrocks on March 17. That causes us to say things like, “Faith and begorra!”

We’re a driving bunch in March. St. Urho drove the grasshoppers out of Finland, St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland, and I drive my wife crazy.

There is little buzz about the prospect of a St. Al.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.