I know I have said something similar to this before, but some things bear repeating. No matter how much I enjoy the writing of great authors and poets, I think if T. S. Eliot had to spend this particular February here in Flint Hill or nearby, he might change his mind about April being the cruelest month. February gets my vote, hands down.
As I am writing this, it is supposed to be below zero tonight with a high of 15 tomorrow and five to eight inches of snow the next day. And, no, that is not wind chill; that is the temperature. I still get out and flop around in it a bit, but most of that is just to clear my head from all the time spent indoors. It’s not the snow that gets me, that can be beautiful, sometimes. It is these blasted arctic temperatures and the unceasing wind.
The last warm spell we had I was able to raise the height on the four new raised beds I put in last year. Now, I have to find something to fill them up with, like some old manure and peat moss and top soil. I have reached the maximum limit on the size of my garden. If it was any bigger I am afraid it would take the fun out of it.
I have a long list of other chores that are just waiting for an uptick in the thermometer and a bit better attitude on my part. I won’t bore you with an old man’s health problems, but I have been having headaches since November and while they are low on the pain scale they are high on aggravation and have sapped my will to do anything productive, like move my strawberry patch, or finish the grape arbor or put some sort of roof over my wood pile. I remain hopeful that warmer weather and more outside time will improve both my head and my attitude.
I did manage to get all my stuff together and take it to the nice lady who has done our taxes for the last 10 years or so. A warning for those of you who are about my age and worked for a living and tried to put away a few dollars for your golden years: When you start taking your distributions from your IRA … the old kind of IRA where you put untaxed money in … you may be in for an unwelcome surprise.
I won’t say I didn’t know it was coming, like the punch on the arm you were going to get from the bully standing beside the row of lockers as you made your way down the hall to your next class. At least with him you had a choice. As the Grascals sing in, “Me and John and Paul,” you could set your books down and roll up your sleeves and acquit yourself as best you could, or you could just take the thump, pretend it didn’t hurt at all, and keep walking. You don’t have that much choice where Uncle Sam is concerned. He is going to get his whether you fight or flee or just pretend you didn’t feel a thing.
At least these cold, windy days are good for something. For instance, you have time to savor the way good writers tell their stories. I have been reading a collection of tales, “The Greatest Fishing Stories Ever Told,” edited by Lamar Underwood. The editor quotes another outdoor writer, John Dickie, when he says he tried to include only articles which include, “quite apart from their subject, intrinsic literary worth.” In choosing the short stories and chapters from other authors’ work, Mr. Underwood has hit the nail squarely on the head with this collection. I recommend it to you, whether you fish, would like to fish or just need something good to read. I haven’t finished the book yet, but this one is making its way towards the top of my list of favorites.
Here are but two examples of what I’m talking about. There are many more in the book. From a piece by Thomas McGuane, entitled, simply, “Weather,” we get this description of an angler: “One could raise the poetry as a nonconsuming naturalist, but who besides the angler crawls to the brook at daybreak or pushes his fragile craft to the head of the tide to come out on the flood with the creatures that breathe the water?”
And you may be familiar with Robert Ruark, who wrote, “The Old Man and the Boy,” and “The Old Man’s Boy Grows Older.” I have a preference for the first title, which is written as seen through the eyes of a boy, but they are both wonderfully written books about all sorts of things outdoors, with lots of good fishing tales. This quote is from a chapter in the first book entitled, “September Song”:
“The Old Man said you couldn’t set too much store by a fire; that a fire was all that separated man from beast, if you came right down to it. I believe him. I’d rather live in the yard than in a house that didn’t have an open fireplace.”
And that is why they call this column, “Clark Hollow Ramblings.” Don’t forget about our Relay for Life breakfast at the Flint Hill Fire Hall this Saturday (March 7), starting at 7 a.m. I look forward to seeing you there.
And, finally, from me to you, these simple words of determination and hope:
Stay warm, my friend, and try to hold on.
Spring can’t be much further along.