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A Month of Mud

I hate February.

Every year, I decide that I will not write a column about this disgusting, disreputable, dyspeptic, diseased, dismembering excuse for a month, if for no other reason that it challenges my vocabulary to find words capable of describing my loathing for February. I normally like challenges, but February is like mercury – elusive, wiggling, shimmering, heavy and poisonous. February is a sniveling quisling, too small for a month, and too long for an illness.

It is not sufficient to say I strongly dislike February. That’s like saying battery acid will make your nose tingle, but in reality, a snootful of sulfuric might be preferable, when faced with 28 or 29 days of the ailing misery that is February. February is the ingrown toenail, the abscessed tooth, the sinus headache of the calendar – an unavoidable part of life, but amongst the least pleasant of times.

Indeed, had Dickens written “A Tale of Two Cities” in February, the opening line would have been: “It was the worst of times, and they just got worse.”

I would be remiss if I did not point out that there are some good points about February – Valentine’s Day, for instance, and birthdays like those of my Sister the Troll and my mother-in-law. Those are but small bright  points to an otherwise oppressive ogre, a smudge on the schedule of months that generally have more high points than lows.

Perhaps February and I would have a better relationship if I lived somewhere else; in Southeastern North Carolina, February weather is as dysfunctional as a convention of politicians suffering from multiple, multiple-personality disorders. Perhaps I would be less repulsed by February if I lived somewhere that has, at least, predictable weather during the month of the Hunger Moon. My friends in the upper Midwest are hip-deep in snow, and will remain that way for weeks, while other friends are wearing shorts and enjoying sunshine. Of course, one can see those same weather events here, especially during February, but they won’t be as pleasant.

The weather may be cold and wet, or warm and set, or cold and frozen, or warm and muddy, or as gloomy and overcast as a gothic Victorian novel, or as pleasant as a pretty girl in a new Easter dress – all in the same day. I do not exaggerate when I say have seen folks with flip-flops sticking out of the pockets of the coats they reserve for snowstorms – but only in February in North Carolina.

A pox on you, February.

While the name itself seems innocuous, one must consider other names for February to get the full understanding of the inherent indecency of this insipid, inimical innuendo of a month, one that lacks the spine to confront you face to face, but instead is like a bantam rooster, picking a fight from behind with spurs in need of clipping.

One reason I am disinclined to trust February is that its contagious misery causes me to lose track, as well as write run-on sentences using words that are preposterous, bombastic and lugubrious, even while I forget what I was talking about in the first case.

For example – I was referring to the other names for this wretched roadkill grease-spot of a month, and I became distracted.

I blame February.

The second month has a variety of historically accurate names – Old English, for example, calls it Solmonath, which translates to “Mud Month.” Look at my pasture, my yard, and my favorite trails through the woods, and you’ll likely agree with the scribes of the Dark Ages. Another old English and Celtic term is “Kale-Monath,” which means the Month of Eating Nothing but Cabbage. I like cole slaw as much as any good Southerner, but otherwise, I see cabbage largely as a product designed to attract the herbivores that I prefer to eat. I will tear into a pot of mustard greens, and I have a passing affection for turnip and collard greens, but cabbage? No thanks.

Several Slavic peoples tried to use various words that mean “Ice melting” as names for February, but those never stuck, since they implied hope. February is bereft of hope.

The American Indians measured months by the full moon, and February had various names, none of them reassuring – the Full Snow Moon, for instance. The Hunger Moon, as I mentioned earlier. And one people-group called February the Wolves-Hungry Moon, since that was when they had to worry about wolves being hungry enough to eat people.

February is bad enough on its own – but when you have to worry about being eaten by wild animals, that just salts the wound.

Did I mention, I don’t like February?

February means the end of hunting and land trapping seasons, two activities I love, but never have time for these days. The wild rabbits and quail are getting close to nesting time, as are the squirrels. I’m not a waterfowl hunter, and of course, big game has long since been closed. The hogs are still in hiding, from what I’m told; I have to take the word of others, since February’s work load increases exponentially from January, and what little time I have outside of sleeping is spent working.

If I could keep a truck running, and give up another few hours of sleep, I could still put out a trapline – but by now, the coyotes are getting skinny, and the female bobcats are carrying the fur market’s offerings for the year after next. The otters have become a bit singed, and the beaver market’s hardly worth the trouble when the hides are good, never mind right now when everything is suffering from a surfeit of surly, silly, stupidity.

February, you’re like a cup of tepid, over-priced, weak coffee served by a brain-dead barista in a brand-name shop best known for liberal politics and pretension.

But soon, March will be here.

Even before the calendar is turned, the jonquils and daffodils will decide enough is enough, and rear their heads in defiance. The outraged cries of our hens being romanced by roosters will be replaced by the comforting cluck-cluck that reassures the latest clutches of fuzzy little bughunters. The rabbits will have a better chance of raising their twitchy-nosed furballs to adulthood, so they can dance in the pasture at night.

I heard the first of my owls vocalizing again the other night, a lonesome go-getter trying to get the jump on the other hooters who will soon bring a chorus to counter the cacophony of frogs, crickets and other nightdwellers who celebrate the Moon of First Grass in March.

Our horses will roll happily in new green grass, free from the blankets that were too hot by day, and too scratchy by night. Our old dogs will enjoy the loosening of their aching joints, and the catfish will take a hint from the bass, and begin rising again from their muddy melancholy.

It will be March, the Month of Promise, and we’ll be on the road to making things right again.

But for now, it’s still February, the month I hate most of all — at least until August arrives.

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