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Ah, but it is nice to see lovely sunny shine and hints of green to liven up the muddy topsoil and ease the sting of road dust and grit billowing after each car and transport. The welcome of the season is well offset, at least in my view, by typically having to pay for it in week upon week of damp chill in the air and soggy underfoot. Those of you living away from the big lake we call Superior have what is considered a normal spring, a season along the shores of the big water that comes off retarded and unpleasant. Nothing takes the bloom off May flowers like an ice sharp wind off Superior. This is the sort of thing that leaves a vivid recollection of watering recently sown grass seed while wearing a parka and choppers. If you could leave the light on in a walk-in cooler you’d have as much success raising grass there as in my yard in May.
A more positive side of this chill, ill wind of spring along the shore is the smug knowledge we have purple and white lilacs to sniff or admire while for others these are now months’ past memories. Here along the shore I’ve often enough added color to a Fourth of July picnic table with a last hurrah of lilac. Try that in the sunny south and see what happens; you’d find as much success with that as getting an enthused July 4 parade going in Vicksburg. (For those who dozed off for portions of US History in high school the story is this. After a long siege by a Union army Vicksburg surrendered on July 4 in hopes the victorious Yankees would give better terms on an important holiday. But in rebel fashion the city then refused to celebrate July Fourth for the next eighty plus years. I’d expect many in Vicksburg are not over it yet.)
Much as, and I truly do, I dislike the cool, wet, muddy weeks of a traditional North Shore spring its chilly side has the great advantage of retarding the twin nemesis (nemi?) of black fly and tick. Hardy as those nasty little fly and crawlers are, they aren’t as mobile or tactically successful at 40 Fahrenheit as they become at 55. With only the slightest slash of sun to encourage them the twin curses will crank up as if in that small opening of opportunity they have to cram in (which is the case) their entire life cycle and mission. Both forms of devilment are skilled sneakers while the black flies and mildly impressive tacticians as well because a few will distract with facial buzzing so the Seals and Green Berets of their legions can weasel in around the cuffs. They’re good at it they are, and I’m sure many of you will agree that few things surpass a black fly bite for venomous result.
Worse, however, are the ticks, no question! Aside from being sneaky and unattractive as only a miniature crab could imitate the tick often hosts any number of ill willed companions eager for a career in whatever human of animal bloodstream the creepy tick will provide. In 1960 I could have spent an entire summer outdoors along the lake and river shores, fields, and wooded fringes of Hoyt Lakes and never, ever find a single tick. It was not that I outran them. They simply were not there. But, oh they are with us now. About the only two truly secure places are the centerline of 61 and the middle of a lake. Admittedly, the several times I discovered a “loose” tick indoors they could have dropped off clothing or something similar, but I do not trust any excuse a tick might make. As sneaks they are inherently dishonest. It puts me at odds with Foresters, but I think scorched earth a suitable solution to areas of heavy tick infestation. Those that might escape the inferno could be hunted down singly to be subjected to cruel starvation in prison cells with Non-stick coated walls no tick known could ever climb. OK, I don’t like ticks either as a general group or individually as possible friends who simply have a different point of view or belief. I find sympathy wasted if used on a tick same as I find empathy of no value when applied to a masked be-header claiming to do its master’s will. At least the damage a tick does is done for its survival and not for dogma, but then it takes a human creed to actually achieve levels of true evil. There’s no tick or nature-nasty can beat us there.
Sorry to have slid into dogma criticism there. I honestly try to avoid it and have made a personal vow in the spirit of spring and resurrection to look forward and upward. But, much as I might try to avoid them certain topics break in because there are those who are intent on showing us “This is what happens if you don’t obey us.” I try to be reasoned and ecumenical, but beheading wants neither. My hand stays from scorched earth for ticks, but when a dogma promotes and glorifies inhumanity it deserves in response that which it has so willingly and gladly justified.
But, as spring is here and flurries are in the air I take glad heart in one of the welcome signs of better days. The first straggles of Canada Geese have gone. These must be the optimists of goose kind not bothered by slim pickings so early in the season. To the earliest goes the best nesting spot. As the Canadian Honkers pass overhead they are joined by strings and straggles of Canada Campers returning north from months away in Florida. Did you know Florida actually begins to rise a bit as all the Canadian guests depart? The rebound respite isn’t for long, however. The press returns in a few months with the return of winter. For now we enjoy those glorious few weeks of no sledding we know and love as summer up north.