Sunday, March 28, 2010

Signs of Spring -- comentary

I saw the first sign of spring today, or I should say heard about it when a student exclaimed, “Mr. Grove, we had a mosquito in our house last night!” There is nothing louder than a mosquito buzzing around your head as you lay in the dark trying to doze off. Mosquitoes aside, in spring, brain cells begin exploding, especially in our agricultural setting here in the Delta. At my age, these little explosions don’t lead to romance but rather to polishing up old memories.

There is a different buzzing sound that first catches my attention in the spring, the buzz of crop dusting airplanes doing their spring thing. These yellow Ag Cats screaming across a field a hundred feet off the deck trigger excitement. Are they flown by ex-combat fighter pilots seeking yet another adrenaline rush? They scream down the field and at just the right second steeply climb. Look out for that power line! And they do! I suspect my eyes follow them for the same reason I watch stock car races.

Though I would like to fly one of those Ag Cats, I don’t know how. The closest I’ve come to such an adrenaline rush is riding a sport motorcycle, so when motorcycles escape from winter garages, I again sense spring in the air. My motorized two-wheel addiction tugs at me insanely. One spring day, I hope to again be in the saddle, taking my rightful place in the Cripple Old Biker Boys Society. (Boys isn’t exactly what that last B stands for, but it will do. You can Google it: C.O.B.B.)

There are also some docile signs of spring. The giant tractors busily till the soil, and I wonder how life would have been different had I followed my youthful urge to farm instead of joining the Air Force. Memory plays tricks on us, especially where nostalgia is concerned. But, when I see all this farm equipment at work and have to dodge some of it on the highways as farmers go to their fields, a fondness for the past seems to overtake me. Sometimes I think I should buy an old two cylinder John Deere Model B tractor, drive it around the yard and get in the way of neighborhood cars to get this foolishness out of my system before I do something muddleheaded, like hire out to a farmer.

Raise your hand if you too remember days spent on an old Johnny Popper. Hour after hour it was pop, a, pop, a, pop, a, pop. And as you lay your head on the pillow at night, it was still there: pop, a, pop, a, pop.

The Johnny Popper that I so fondly remember from my youth was owned by a poor guy who failed to stomp out a wave of nostalgia that was overtaking him, and he bought a dairy farm as a retirement project. It nearly worked him to death before he could get rid of it.

There are other things that endear me to spring. The first Jonquils start to pop out. The wild yellow ones we see popping up around here hint of the acres and acres of daffodils that colored the Puyallup Valley in Western Washington near where I grew up. Even as the Californians had their annual Rose Parade, we had our annual Daffodil Parade. I dressed in my dark blue band uniform, cleaned off my white shoes and gave them a fresh coat of paint, shined the bell of my trombone, and boarded a school bus for the trip to Puyallup Valley and the several mile march in the big parade. While polishing these memories, I think about the trombone and wonder if I could ever play it again. I bought a used one once to give it a try: no practice, no luck.

And with the coming of the Jonquils, I know the blooming of the dogwoods is not far behind. The blooming Dogwood tree is one of my truly Southern joys. They are an experience of the present, stirring no memories of the past. Every year I patiently wait for the time when I can drive to Spring River, trout fish and report back that the Dogwoods are blooming. There is nothing that makes a ride along the country roads of Crowley’s Ridge more enjoyable than the white flowers of the Dogwoods scattered among the many other trees of the forest.

As the old song says, “June is busting out all over.” You are probably reading this on a Sunday morning. Check and see if the sun is shining. If it is, put the paper down, pack a picnic lunch and go for a ride on the back roads and byways and rediscover spring. See what it does for your disposition.

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