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Al Batt: The grass is always greener when it’s in your Easter basket

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

Spring rode in on the south wind.

It was a soaring turkey vulture wearing a stocking cap on its bald head. Its head still looked much smaller than a bald eagle’s.

Not everyone finds winter a blessing. I try to enjoy every winter day, but by the middle of March, I find slacking in my resolve. Spring is the Big Mac and fries of seasons to many. It’s an extension of winter and it summons summer. Spring comes when we forget how tired we were of mowing the lawn. Whether we believe in meteorological spring starting on March 1 or astronomical spring that began on March 20, we have our signs of spring.

My father said it was spring when the barn swallows returned to the barn. Spring doesn’t inherit a well-swept floor. Winter has a serious housekeeping disorder and trash blooming in road ditches is a sad sign of spring. Spring is a winged world — birds and insects.

That genius Anonymous came up with, “Spring is sprung, the grass is riz. I wonder where the birdies is? They say the bird is on the wing, but that’s absurd, the wing is on the bird.” One day, I looked for spring and found grackles. A grackle changes colors according to the sun’s directions. Robins are no harbingers of spring. Some are here in winter. Red-winged blackbirds arrive a bit early, but meadowlarks, killdeer and song sparrows could do the harbinger job. The songs of cardinals, nuthatches and blue jays are spring’s theme song and bring March gladness. The dawn chorus becomes a roll call as bird species check into a world that’s a concert hall filled with birdsong. A tweetstorm. The drumming of woodpeckers, yellowing goldfinches, pussy willows and smell of skunk. Starling bills turn yellow. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, “A birdie with a yellow bill Hopped upon my window sill, Cocked his shining eye and said: ‘Ain’t you ‘shamed, you sleepy-head!’” Clellan Card, who portrayed Axel, a kooky Scandihoovian character who lived in a treehouse with his unseen pets Towser the dog and Tallulah the cat. “Axel and His Dog” was a kids’ show featuring cartoons and Little Rascals films on WCCO television (Channel 4). Axel continued the Robert Louis Stevenson tradition, “Birdie with a yellow bill, hopped upon my window sill, cocked a shining eye and said: “What is that in the road – a head? Or “What did you do in Saint Louis – Park?” Or “What did you do with the light bulb — socket?”

Spring can be one damp day after another. My feet have been wet up to my shoulders. I watch ag engineers for signs of rain. An uncle assured me a farmer will beat a rain to town.

The roads are rough one day and my Fitbit records more steps while I’m driving than when walking. The next day, it’s easy to dig in my heels. Mud sees to that. The snow globe turns into a mud globe. Roads can be holey tours. Even Easy Street has a few potholes. I once lived in a house by the side of a dirt road and was a friend to man and potholes. Potholes were bigger then. I didn’t know whether to fill them in or stock them with bass. One pothole became a historical landmark. Each spring brought a long road to recovery.

It’s green. How can I tell if it’s a weed? If I don’t have to plant, mulch, water, fertilize, stake, spray or prune something in my garden, it’s a weed. I get excited about seeing green things and have to be careful not to inhale a fly. Not a problem. I’m used to chewing mosquitoes. If you’re the kind who is on edge with a mosquito in your bedroom, this isn’t the place for you. You won’t become a mosquito matador. Kill a fly and keep thousands away. Kill a mosquito and thousands will come to its funeral. Mosquitoes plant tomatoes to entice us outside and we need not do anything to incur the wrath of skeeters. The state perfume is DEET. You can save money on mosquito spray by standing downwind from someone applying the stuff. Our mosquitoes are big enough they are required by law to emit warning beeps when backing up.

To some, spring is when we scrounge as many tax receipts as we can, when UPS drivers wear short pants and the scarecrow needs a new sports jacket.

To me, it’s inarguably spring when the snow shovel melts.

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday.

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