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The first minute of March

By: Jefferson Weaver

Jefferson-WeaverMy wife was escorting the dogs on their bedtime constitutional, and I was getting ready for bed, when the gates of bedlam were opened.

The donkey brayed, the porch rooster crowed, the dogs barked, and Miss Rhonda hollered.

“There’s something going on in the pasture,” she said. “Melanie’s pitching a fit!”

It took but a moment to grab a flashlight and a gun, yank on my boots and head for the door.  The moon was almost at half-full, but clouds meant I needed to balance the flashlight in one hand whilst trying to guide the bicycle with the other.

A quick run to the front pasture turned up nothing but a few frightened rabbits, an obstinate possum, and horses who were sure I’d finally snapped.

When I made a circuit around the barn, the confined chickens and the geese panicked and complained. Of course, fowl always panic and complain; if I believed in reincarnation, I am fairly sure most vacuous, overly-chatty teenaged girls would be reincarnated as geese.

Melanie the donkey and her two buddies appeared bemused as I shone the light across them, since apparently there was nothing wrong, or else nothing that they hadn’t handled. I figured the foal in Melanie’s distended stomach had awakened her with a bad dream, and Melanie wanted to share the love.

My bad knee protested at the vigor of the bike ride—but far less than it would have had I tried to run from the house to the highway. I backed down on the pedals a bit and slowed just as the clouds broke away.

Everything was bathed in a soft blue-white light, and I had to stop for a moment to satisfy the Welsh dreamer in my DNA. The night was beautiful, and I realized I had worked up a little bit of a sweat, despite it being the last day of February.

I hadn’t thought about the date, but as I walked through the door, striving again for sleep, even a brief skein of the yarn that “knits the ravel’d sleeve of a day’s care,”  I realized it was after midnight—and it was now March.

I love the depth of a true cold winter, especially in January, when everyone with any sense is inside and the woods and fields are my own. I love the growing warmth of July, and the golden reassurance of September, when the shockingly cold brown water of an unknown swimming hole is a second home. As my readers know, I despise February, when the beauty of winter has become a soggy, indecisive mudbath, almost as much as I loathe August, when tempers and temperatures flare and the aforementioned swimming hole is likely to be half-dry, muddy and populated with venomous snakes and more dangerous mosquitoes.

But March, the month of promise, is one of my favorite times. True, its name is drawn from the Roman god of war, and March is a time of tempestuous weather, but I look more at the peaceful glories of the third month.

Like the jonquils and daffodils, for instance, who struggled to break free of the thousand-year mud and raise their pale gold and bright yellow banners of defiance at the winter just past. I could care less for the byproduct of the budding maples, but the pollen can’t take much away from the shock and awe of their colors as the woods slowly awaken and stretch toward spring.

March is yet another time for twitching little noses and bright eyes in the rabbit nests, as well as the hilarious hysteria of hens shepherding chicks that somehow burst out of the eggs so zealously guarded for 28 to 32 days.

March means the grass is greening again, and our old horses, Red and June, will cease to creak and crack with every step, Leon’s luxuriant winter prime coat will have to be brushed out, and Gracie the Arabian Princess will redouble her speed on ground dried harder by steadily warming winds.

March means I won’t have to struggle out from under a blanket weighed down by shivering dogs in the mornings, not to mention that my wife’s cold nose won’t be poking between my shoulder blades.

March means we’ll once again plan to plant a garden, and this time, the logistics are in place to protect our attempts at produce. Whether or not the garden actually works is beside the point; there’s just something reassuring and reinvigorating about smelling freshly-awakened earth and producing honest sweat. I do not mean the stifling, stale sweat that comes from the stress of being stuck inside an office, but the honest kind that leaves a rime of salt on a collar and a smudge of fertile mud on your forehead.

March is a month where God allows nature to make a deal with man: you do your part, and nature will do hers.

The farmers are breaking fields, preparing for the summer’s corn. Those with a love and pride in their lawns are removing the winter-dead limbs that fell during the dark months, so the smell of burning leaves and crackling Cambrian armor is carried on an ever-present breeze that caresses, rather than biting like its cousins from back in January and February.

The yearling beavers are being kicked out and sent off on their own to build new colonies around new dams that will create lagoons for the ducks, geese, muskrats, crawfish, frogs and fish – and the otters who eat them, who are in turn producing their own litters of pups. Bears will stretch and stink and sag as their once sleek winter skin gives way to a vegetarian season. Nervous does guard the babies in their bellies, as hungry coyotes search for the best stump hole to have their own dens.

We have new woods and fields to explore, so I need to locate a new patch of sweet, fat, sap-dripping sassafras, while keeping an eye out for a persimmon tree or two, and maybe even a forgotten small orchard of ugly apples and farm pears, all to be raided in the fall.

By the time you read these words, we will have completed the confusing transition from standard to savings time, theoretically producing another hour of daylight when we can continue to be productive. That’s a nice concept, of course, but I am far more interested in having an extra hour to tempt an awakening catfish, watch a Dixie Youth baseball game, make amends with my horses for the winter’s neglect, or just enjoy a sunset with my bride. I reckon productivity is in the eye of the beholder.

March is a time to open the windows, sweep out the tailings and trash of the winter, and shrug off the fugue and fuzz and fog from being stuck inside for too long.

The afternoon after my midnight ride, I made sure Miss Melanie had a Nekot or two, as well as a good scratch. After all, she is expecting (we think she’s having a camel) but I owed her.

Were it nor for Melanie’s midnight moaning, I might have missed welcoming the first minute of March.

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