Smush, squish, and ooze through mud season
In this part of the world, the arrival of the vernal equinox doesn’t necessarily mean that spring is here. We must first endure the period that comes between winter and spring, that abomination known as the mud season.
The mud season is by far the cruelest time of the year. It often rides in on a burst of balmy weather, with sunny skies and temperatures warm enough to make you forget you wore a jacket so you leave it somewhere. You are so hopeful that the pleasant weather is here to stay that you dig out your Bermuda shorts and ask yourself if they will still fit and if they will still look as stylish as they did last summer. (The answer to those questions are “Nope!” and “You must be colorblind!”)
But then the weather takes an abrupt turn toward the nasty. A cold rain falls, followed by snow and subfreezing temperatures. One day, you’re wondering if you should apply sunscreen; the next day, you’re wondering where you put your parka.
We welcomed the mud season back when I was in grade school. After the last of the snow had melted, we would tromp all over the oozy playground, squishing and smushing our way through every mud-spattered recesses. Some of us (ahem) played in the muck so much that we became mud connoisseurs.
“I don’t particularly care for that mud,” we might say. “It’s too gloppy. And the ooze by the swings has too much grit for my taste. But that mire over by the seesaw! It’s perfect, containing just a smidgeon of Permian clay with an aroma that reminds one of ancient alluvium. I wouldn’t mind losing a boot in that mud, if you know what I mean.”
A cold wave would invariably sweep down upon us, freezing our muddy footprints. They looked like the fossilized tracks left behind by a herd of hyperactive, cleat-footed bipedal creatures.
Our dog, Bella, seems to be magnetically attracted to mud. Her two main goals in life appear to be: 1) finding every possible mud puddle and galloping joyfully through it, and 2) sneaking into our house whenever we open the front door and transplanting as much mud as possible onto our floors.
Bella is supposed to be a hunting breed, but I think she’s a mud dog. She’s also black, which means that she never gets very dirty. Or so it appears.
“What a messy dog!” I will exclaim whenever our muddy puppy successfully sneaks into our house.
“They say that a dog’s personality reflects that of its owner,” my wife will say. I don’t understand what she means. I am one of the tidiest people that I know. The piles of clutter on and around my desk are actually a highly organized filing system.
The vernal equinox 41 years ago stands out in my memory. That particular day wasn’t muddy, which was a good thing because it was also the day that my wife and I tied the knot.
We didn’t have much money, so my wife took charge of our nuptial preparations. Fortune smiled upon us; our wedding day was so warm and spring-like that my bride-to-be was able to dash about in her shirtsleeves as she made the hectic final arrangements. My main responsibilities that day included milking the cows early and getting to the church on time. And to make sure there wasn’t any mud on my rented tux and shoes.
We chose to get married on the first day of spring in the hopes that we wouldn’t be afflicted by a late-season blizzard. We also hoped that it would be too muddy for me to begin fieldwork. We lucked out on both accounts.
After our wedding ceremony – which went off without a hitch, thanks my wife’s excellent logistical skills – we headed for the Black Hills for a three-day honeymoon. At about the halfway point of our westward journey, I saw a farmer who was out disking his field.
I realized that his area was higher and drier than ours. Still, I couldn’t help but think that I should be back on our farm doing something, anything, fieldwork-related.
“Would you cut that out?” said my wife. “You sound like a whining puppy. And get your nose away from the window, you’re smudging it up!”
As soon as we returned from our honeymoon I hitched my tractor to my disk, drove out to our closest field and immediately sank the entire rig up to its axles in mud.
But I didn’t mind because the ooze had flowery notes of Holocene silt with subtle hints of aromatic loam.
About the Author
Jerry Nelson and his wife, Julie, live in Volga, South Dakota, on the farm that Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded in the 1880s. Daily life on that farm provided fodder for a long-running weekly newspaper column, “Dear County Agent Guy,” which become a book of the same name. Dear County Agent Guy is available at workman.com/products/dear-county-agent-guy.