Column: Signs of springtime bring memories of youth

Great Outdoors by James Murray

By James Murray


Running home as fast as my eight-year-old legs would carry me, I couldn’t wait to tell my mother I had spotted the first crocus of spring.

Back then, spotting a crocus was a big deal. Seeing its fresh green leaves and soft mauve petals pushing up through the ground meant winter was over for sure, and soon there would be leaves on the trees and birds in the branches. There would be rebirth and renewal of activity.

Even as a kid I couldn’t wait for spring to come, especially after a long, bleak boring winter. For me spring meant hauling my bicycle out of the shed, cleaning the cobwebs off and oiling it up in preparation of heading out on the open road. Spring meant being able to ride my bike like a crazy person and go out on all sorts of adventures – just as long as I was home for supper.

Spring has always meant looking up to see and hear flocks of ducks and geese winging their way northward back to their nesting grounds. It also means songbirds feeding their newly hatched young and sometimes the sight of shy and unsure fawns coming down to the creek to drink with their mothers. I remember when we were kids there were two large trees, elm I think, that stood tall among the others along the banks of the creek. Each year there would be dozens of beautiful and majestic great blue herons that would nest among the branches. The herons had apparently been returning to the same site (colony) for many years. One day someone in their infinite wisdom decided to cut the trees down. The herons never returned. Sort of like the credit card commercial: trees worth a certain dollar –heron colony, priceless.

I remember how, even with the warm spring weather, there would always be a few bits of lingering snow in the more shadowed areas, such as beneath a large conifer tree. My older brother and I would take advantage of it to have one last snowball fight. One year he hit me in the face with a ‘spring’ snowball. When the snow begins to melt the ice crystals change. It was as if his snowball had been made of shards of glass. He might have thrown that snowball well over 60 years ago, but like I said I can still feel it. That’s a long time to feel the sting of one snowball.

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When we were kids, spring meant being able to head down to Oman’s Creek where my brother and I would build a campfire and cook up wieners and beans for lunch. We would also fish and look for treasures, such as old antlers or pop bottles that we could cash in for hard, cold cash that we could use to supplement our allowances and use to buy a drink or popcorn at the Saturday afternoon matinee movies.

One spring, now long past but not forgotten, my brother and I decided to build a raft and see if we could fish while floating down the creek (probably because my brother had just read Huckleberry Finn). Needless to say, our craft did not hold together all that well and, well, let’s just say we didn’t catch any fish. We did, however, meet up with our father who had come to look for us because we were late for supper. Many times over the years, he would recall with great consternation how we looked that day, covered in mud from head to foot, dragging our weary behinds along the road, all smiles at having had such a great adventure. It was only with time and wisdom I would come to realize how worried he must have been that day and how relieved he must have also been to see us in one piece.

While much has changed over the years and many things that I hold dear are now but memories of experiences long ago. I still believe that while, yes, certain things do indeed change, the best part of change is the rebirth and renewal that only comes about with the arrival of spring. I also look forward to spring because it affords me the opportunity to cast my first line of the new season.

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