March Is the Meanest Month
March proved yet again that it’s the meanest month by smacking us with another bomb-cyclone-snowpocalypse. Thank goodness the state high school basketball tournaments are now over! If history has taught us anything, it’s that the state tournaments are reliable blizzard triggers.
We have endured so many record-breaking snowstorms that we’ve quit counting them. And now we’re looking at something like the fourth 100-year flood in 10 years. School was called off so often that administrators began to announce when classes would be held instead of when they were cancelled.
One positive feature of those beastly storms is that they are great equalizers. You can own 500 shares of Berkshire Hathaway Class A or keep gold nuggets in your rock garden, but your car will become just as stuck in that snowdrift as someone who can only afford tires with sidewalls that read “No Hunting.”
There are some who say that this has been an especially wicked winter. Others whom I’ve spoken with take a longer view, saying that we’ve simply had a winter that was approximately normal. This is based on the experiences of their childhoods, when every winter was like a dyspeptic badger whose tail you had accidentally stepped upon.
One March, our high school’s basketball team made it to the state tournament. The championship game attracted a lot of attention and tickets were in high demand. As a student, I was allowed to buy a ticket, but I decided against it. A snowstorm was predicted for the night of the game and I didn’t want to be trapped in a confined space with a bunch of smelly, muscle-bound creatures with bad breath. I opted to stay home and milk cows instead.
I probably would have felt differently about attending the tournament had I been on the team. I tried out for basketball in seventh grade and was given a spot at the far end of the lineup. I spent the totality of my basketball-playing career riding the pine and cheering for my teammates while stifling my jealousy. This is much more difficult than it appears. I should have been awarded a trophy for the heroic self-control of my emotions.
Coach Schrader finally put me in during the closing moments of our last game. I played for exactly eight seconds. I made the best possible use of this time by receiving a pass from a teammate and successfully passing the ball to our center, who took a downtown shot that pranged off the rim. Despite my teammate’s glaring failure, I felt that I had contributed mightily to the cause.
Sadly, my latent basketball talents went unappreciated and unrecognized. When I tried out for the eighth-grade basketball team, I failed to make the cut. Plum positions were given to guys who had been born with unfair advantages such as being really tall and having actual athletic abilities.
I felt the deep sting of rejection and thought that the coach’s decision was unjustly biased. I told several people that a special prosecutor should be appointed to look into this matter, but the idea went nowhere.
The month of March in 1981 was very memorable and totally non-mean. That was the March when my wife and I marched down the aisle and said our I do’s.
Our wedding took place on the vernal equinox. I thought this would be an especially auspicious day for a farmer to get married. Plus, I was pretty sure that fieldwork wouldn’t be started yet.
The day dawned sunny and mild. It was so warm that my bride-to-be was able to bustle about and make final wedding preparations in shirtsleeves. I stayed out of her way in my shirtsleeves and said, “Whatever you think is best,” whenever I was asked a question. This system has served me well for nearly four decades.
Planning a wedding for anytime in March is tempting fate. I couldn’t shake the feeling that a blizzard would roar over the western horizon and ruin our nuptial soiree. My wife’s cascading white veil might be blotted out by a veil of white descending from the sky.
But, no. The weather remained fine and we got hitched without any weather-related hitches.
After the ceremony and reception, we drove to a hotel located an hour away. There was a basketball tournament in town, so we spent the night listening to high-spirited young people yelling maniacally as they clomped up and down the hallway.
I thought about basketball and the pain of being excised from the eighth-grade squad. And I was profoundly grateful that I had made the cut for the team that includes my wife and me.
Jerry’s book, Dear County Agent Guy, is available at Workman.com and in bookstores nationwide.