By Jefferson Weaver
I awoke to a Spanish Inquisition quality cramp in my bad leg, unable to breathe, but with the foulest of hound-breath fogging my face and somehow breaking through the congestion to pollute my tortured nasal passages.
Then I realized it was finally February.
I hate February.
As always, I will offer this disclaimer. There actually are a scant few good things about February. It’s the birth of month of some of my favorite relatives and friends who are closer to me than many less-favored relatives. The crappie are beginning to move, although most fish have the decency and common sense to do as little as possible. There’s Valentine’s Day, a greeting card holiday I actually enjoy, since I love my wife. Then there’s —
No. Wait. That’s it.
I detest February.
February is a shambling, sneering, smirking, slimy, smelly, sneaky, simpering excuse for a month that makes me lean heavily toward awkward alliteration in all that I write. I detest February, which inspires unlikely analogies and strange similes that are as clumsy as a drunken duck with one leg in a cast.
Since I live for good writing, I hate February.
February means the mud and water are still too high and cool for hunting hogs, which is about all that there is left, since responsible hunters know the quail are still on the rebound, and rabbits and squirrels are carrying next fall’s harvests in their wombs right now. Bear and deer seasons, of course, are just pleasant memories, and even if my single coonhound was not as hardheaded as a dead battery on an old truck on a February morning, my knees simply refuse to allow me to storm through the woods in the dark of night enjoying the clarion call of the enforcer out to stop the ringtailed bandit’s criminal career.
Hence, hunting really isn’t ethical or practical for much of February.
Apart from nuisance trapping and public service possum removal, February has always been when I began to scale down my trapline. By February, those which have survived hunting and trapping and hard times are facing the Hunger Moon, the time when Darwin’s theories really come into play, and less-loved relatives begin to look tasty. The fur is too shabby and thin to make skinning worthwhile. Those same complaints apply to humans as well as furbearers, by the way.
I loathe February.
February is the toady to that other month I hate, August. Whereas August can be a bully, with heat and humidity and hellacious storms, February is the sneaky little minion that gets down on all fours behind you so August can push you over.
February lulls you into a false sense of security with 70- degree dry days that make the flowers peek out of the ground – only to hit you with 33 degrees and rain the next hour. Note that I said 33 degrees, since at 32 degrees, there would at least be the chance of snow, rather than the slow, desultory, heart-breaking, soul-crushing cold rain that comes in February.
February is when everything that held on through the winter breaks, when there are just a few more weeks of winter and early spring, thus adding financial worries to the dream-destroying darkness of the Second Month, the Month of Frozen Mud, the Hunger Moon. You desperately try to hold on, not wanting to buy a new heating unit for just a few weeks use, but then February takes a deep, stinking breath and blows a 25-degree nor’easter filled with icy daggers down from the northernmost reaches of Canada, across the Great Lakes, over the mountains, and into North Carolina, where it collides with a low pressure system heading out to see, and turns around like an angry housewife, shouting “and another thing!”
So you go buy another heating unit, and there’s an early spring.
I hate February.
As I have noted before, it was in February that I lost a girlfriend, lost my job, and was in two wrecks on the same day. A couple days later, when I was trying to clean up my backyard (out of boredom at being lonely, stuck without wheels and unemployed) the wind shifted and I started a wildfire that uncovered the old gasoline tank my landlord had been looking for. That was on Feb. 28; had it been a Leap Year, I dread to think what would have happened next.
I loathe February.
Again, there are many people I love who were born in February, but it hurts me that so many I care about have to have a birthday in this, the cruelest month.
But February’s misery isn’t permanent.
Soon, March will slap the insolent punk of February out of the way, and even if the last month of winter puts up a fight, the first month of spring will overcome. The jonquils and daffodils are already making appearances in some places, and a friend told me the other day that her crocus patches are already showing color on the buds.
The bass and catfish will awaken from their lethargy, so beaver trapping equipment will include a fishing pole or three. “Baby season,” as we call it at our house, will begin, and my bride will be busy bringing joy out of the dozens of little tragedies that send blind, hungry, homeless and orphaned wildlife to our house.
Old Red’s arthritic bones will ease up a bit, and he and Melanie the Mammoth Jenny can enjoy the glory of green grass. With a visit from the farrier, Red and Mel might even find a saddle tossed gently across their old backs, and a few woods trails explored before the mosquitoes and moccasins get the memo that spring has sprung.
Yes, I look forward to spring, in all its glory, and I do not truly want to waste any of the time allotted to us here on Earth – but I hate February, that most miserable, mean-spirited, malevolent, madness-inducing miscreant of a month.