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The Foulness of February

By Jefferson Weaver

As I write these words, my ditches are overflowing, my animals are fractious, my pants are wet from the waist down and the ankles up, my shoulder hurts, I’m not sure how to pay the bills, we have an idiot in the White House, an attorney in the governor’s mansion, a friend’s son is sick, and I smell like a wet dog, but not in a good way.

I hate February.

Take note, I do not hate everything about February. There are family members, both chosen and blood, who were born in the second month. The bass will soon bed, followed by the crappies. Pickerel will slash their way through the weeds to strike anything shiny. There’s a statistical possibility of snow, which I love. There is Valentine’s Day, a greeting card holiday I actually look forward to. There’s the Valentine’s Day Massacre, which while it was a brutal crime advancing a criminal enterprise, it involved Thompson submachine guns, and tommy guns make everything better. Well, a lot of things, anyway.

But overall, I hate February.

February is when we begin to reap the first fruits of the decisions of November, and if you’ve bought fuel, trusted in Wall Street or tried to buy fast food lately, you understand how that has gone.

February should be the month where we can hope for snow, but there’s a better than average chance we’ll instead have unending rain, with occasional respites where ice will replace the rain, creating a crunchy, pestiferous mud that sucks not just the boots from your feet, but the soul from your body. Thankfully, it rarely lasts long, since the weather that produces tornadoes warms things up enough to melt the ice and mud, creating winter floods in the wake of said tornadoes.

February is a month that took people from my life that I still miss, people whose vacancies will be felt deeply and painfully until we meet in Heaven, but that’s a column for another day.

February is the one-eyed, slack-jawed, green-teethed, cheap wine-infused mugger in an alley on a side of town that you’re not sure how you came to travel through, but you just want to escape with your life – but you can’t, because you’re driving a brown 1973 Vega with an aluminum block four-cylinder, two speed transmission, and a malfunctioning oil pressure cutoff switch, in the rain.

I despise February.

February was when the pandemic first began to take hold of our country. That should be enough evidence on its own that the second month is one comprised of equal parts malice, sadism and mourning.

Those who first inhabited this land called February by a variety of names, but the Moon of Hunger strikes me as most apropos. Everything at my house, from the horses to the dogs and cats, stay hungry all the time. I’m the same way. My own ancestors in Wales and England called it the Month of Mud, which is also appropriate, since those same four- and two-legged family members are constantly covered in mud, to some extent. Have you ever seen a muddy chicken? I have – in February.

I loathe February.

A psychologist could have a lot of fun analyzing my disgust for the month of February.

On one day in February 1989, I lost a girlfriend and my job, and got in not one but two wrecks. The year before, the woman with whom I thought I would spend the rest of my life decided otherwise. I really need to send my former friend a thank you note for stealing her, although the theft was consensual.

I sank a canoe in February, miles from my pickup point. That might not have been so bad, except that the water was freezing, my firemaking equipment was soaked, and my dogs had given me fleas.
Did you know you can have frostbite, fleas and hypothermia at the same time? You can. I did.

I despise February.

February is a worthless time for a responsible hunter or trapper. The first rabbits and squirrels are pregnant with next season’s babies; dove, bear and deer seasons are a distant memory; turkey season is something like five years down the road in April. There are always hogs, if you can wade or swim through the swamps where they are hiding on oak ridges, but then you have to swim back carrying the meat. I can’t in good conscience hunt the few coveys of quail that still haunt the ditchbanks and fence lines.

The otters are rubbed, the coons are burned and beat-up, the beavers are winter-poor, the cats are thin and the coyotes look like hungover punk-rock has-beens with discount mohawk hairdos. February used to be a time for mink and muskrats, but the market for mink is through the floor and the worthless nutria have supplanted the muskrats like Yankees taking over a Southern beachfront.

Outside of basic maintenance, the weather, foreshortened days and general malaise of February make it difficult to get anything done at the farm, so with February I begin to be concerned about someone dropping by asking if they can use the place to film a low-budget made-for-TV post-apocalyptic movie.

They could call it February.

February is a fetid, fickle, fugue of a month that leads to awkward alliteration, run-on sentences and a plethora of perverse platitudes of pain and poverty that grip the very spirit like a malicious boa constrictor that takes pleasure in the kill.

I detest February.

February is the schoolyard punk protected by the teacher from the thrashing all punks deserve, all the while hiding behind said teacher and saying bad things about your best dog.
What kind of month insults somebody’s dog? February, that’s what kind.

February, you repulse me.

But there is hope.

A friend told me just the other day that her daffodils had started their exploration of the sun. My own jonquils and daffodils are just hints of green stems hiding in the loam, but the day will come along fairly soon when they will burst out in defiance of February’s foulness and offer their soft gold to the world.

The first of our nesting birds will return soon; some are descendants of those my bride rescued and returned to the wild. Our rabbits – also offspring of rescues – will dance in the lane in the moonlight, while the owls roar and the whippoorwills serenade.

The catfish will stir from their cold-weather slumber in hunger, and the water will be warm enough for the bream to get busy as well.

My horses will scratch themselves silly on every available tree, rubbing off their winter coats until we can take the time to brush them down for the spring, leaving them sleek and proud of themselves. Melanie the donkey is more circumspect in her post-winter grooming, but she too will revel in a good brushing and a rubdown before ambling off to decimate the first patches of green in her pasture.

Somewhere along the line, the Muscovy Mafia will proudly debut their latest ducklings, as Pippin and the Cobrachickens panic as only geese can when a fuzzy gosling is somehow separated from the flock, however briefly. Betty will get broody, and maybe we will have some homegrown chickens in the back of the pickup-turned-broodbox.

As the Hunger Moon fades like a bad memory, the ground will swell and the Month of Fat Worms will shine down, bringing lines of lovelorn earthworms to the surface at night to make more worms, as they have done since Eden.

Spring’s earliest attempts might be foiled a time or two as February and March slug it out for the title, but eventually March will win out, and the first, tentative vestiges of spring will caress the world with soft, reassuring fingers and promises of joy to come.

But for now – we’re stuck with February.

In case you haven’t noticed, I hate February.

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