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Walter Scott: Signs of spring

Nature has many ways of letting us know spring is coming eventually and we will not have winter forever. Some of these signs are subtle, such as the days becoming a bit longer. Other signs are not so subtle, such as the white fields of winter turning to the black mud of spring.

I am always amazed to hear geese calling in the distance and eventually being able to see hundreds as they approach following the leader spread out in a huge V flying north. Sometimes a person will see a handful flying south. I always wonder if they are just the rebellious teenagers of the geese family and decide to be different for the sake of not following directions.

Perhaps it is the few that know it is not warm in Canada yet. They changed their mind and are going back to Louisiana. They know it is still warm there.

Turkeys let the world know when spring has arrived. As the days grow longer, gobblers will begin to practice the mating ritual two or three weeks before actual breeding season begins. The first few week or so, a person can tell the gobblers need practice. The gobble is not the full-throated booming that echos across the valley as it would be in mid-April but more of a rumble and clatter like some knocked a wooden screen door off its hinges.

The jakes are overtaken with an urge to call, but mostly just ruffle their feathers and squawk a bit. The noise they make is really quite comical, especially when a person is close enough to see all the enthusiasm they put into the attempt.

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The recent afternoons have warmed enough to turn the barn lots to mud from one side to the other. When I get done with evening chores, since I value my life, I slip my boots off and leave them outside by the back door. When there is just snow on the ground, I can wear my boots into the back room where they will be warm and dry by morning. When the world is covered with a fresh layer of mud and a few not-so-pleasant remnants of wintering livestock, it is best to leave them outside and put on a cold pair of boots first thing in the morning.

This morning, I grabbed one boot and slipped it on over my bare foot. A person would hate to put on socks to do chores only to have to take them off to shower a few minutes later while getting ready for work.

I heard the honking off in the south and strained to see geese in the pre-dawn light. A minute or two later I was able to make out huge flocks of snow geese heading north in double and triple V formations.

My one bare foot on the concrete was getting cold. I reached for my other boot and noticed several turkeys, already off their roost, grazing the pasture right next to the house. One of them ruffled up and attempted a gobble, but could not get it all the way out.

I slipped my other boot on and knew immediately I had found the definitive sign of spring. Something cold, colder than my foot, and slippery, was in my boot. I quickly removed my foot and turned my boot upside down.

Out plopped a tree frog.

He must have been sunning himself on the patio the afternoon before. When the sun went down, the warmest place he could find was a nice muddy boot. He did not seem too much worse for the experience as I placed him on a piece of firewood that would be hit by the sun in a few minutes.

There are many signs of spring, but to me, each year I know spring is just around the corner when I find a tree frog in my boot.

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