Al Batt: First you smell skunks, and then you chew mosquitoes

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …

That line is from Star Wars, which never goes away. Some jaded souls say that’s true of winter, too. Winter can be a hard hill to get over, but the seasons creep up on us like cheap underwear. Spring drives in on snow tires. The seasons don’t unfold along a line. They unfold like a crumpled road map. I believe March 1 is the first day of spring — it’s the meteorological start based on annual temperatures. The astronomical beginning of spring is on March 20. Neither date guarantees spring weather. Only winter knows when it will hang it up. Opportunities don’t always arrive when we’re ready. Neither does spring. We suffer from weather whiplash as the temperatures go up and down. Repeated freezes and thaws pound the earth like a hammer.

Al Batt

Spring is in the air with the smell of skunks. Feathered pilgrims arrive. Robins are famous for being harbingers of spring, but I see them in winter. Goldfinches molt twice a year — once in late winter and again in late summer. The brightening yellow of male goldfinches each spring is a welcome sign. Like us, they dress for the weather they want. Starling bills turn yellow. Birds wearing vacation clothing arrive from the south. The charge of the flight brigade. Killdeer are shorebirds that don’t need a beach. They call out their name. Red-winged blackbirds return. I love hearing the males singing “Look-at-meee” from a prominent perch. Spring is like having earplugs in for a few months before taking them out. I notice spring in birds heralding increasing daylight — woodpeckers drum out a rapid Morse Code, chickadees whistle “spring’s here,” nuthatches ask “what, what, what” and cardinals sing with accelerating gusto. Predators look for something moving. Turkey vultures look for something that’s not moving. They eat things gone past their expiration dates. Goose music abounds. If you hear honking from a dark alley, walk on by. Canada geese can be testy.

A rule of thumb says spring moves north 13 miles a day. 0r 12 or 15. Some people maintain spring begins on March 13 when daylight saving time begins. Daylight has a better savings plan than most people. Spring may arrive on the scene when the first person is struck blind by a man wearing shorts. People wish their teeth were as white as the legs of the men of spring. A father told me it’s spring when his kids stop playing hockey.

My neighbor Crandall says it’s not spring until he steps onto his deck to breathe deeply of the fine spring air and inhales a bee. Spring is when we discover the road ditches had become giant recycling bins. It’s when last year’s mosquito bites have almost healed and the raccoon becomes the state speed bump. We lose weight by putting away our winter clothing. Spring catches us with too much or not enough coat. Farmers rush to install the corn. Spring is when I’m unable to put my foot down in my yard without stepping on a dandelion. The fortunate among us learn it’s easier to enjoy life if we remember that the dandelion is a flower. Each spring, I bud-dial a flower. We try to control weeds and drool over rhubarb. Grass grows so ferociously only the bravest of lawn mowers dare battle it. I love you mower today than yesterday, but not as mulch as tomorrow. I enjoy lawn care except for the part where I’m supposed to care.

If you live here, you have unintentionally chewed mosquitoes. One memorable day, I watched a mosquito wrestle a turkey to the ground. I didn’t intervene because folklore says it’s bad luck to swat the first mosquito I see each year.

Piles of dirty snow melt reluctantly at the edges of parking lots. Potholes so deep they change the radio station and lock the doors of any car hitting one. It’s hard to find someone who is pro-pothole unless he makes a living plugging them. 

Spring always wins its battle with winter, but sometimes the game goes into overtime.

What do you call an old snowman? Water. 

I’ll miss winter. It’s hard to build a rainman.

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday.