Determining how spring has sprung is a lot different these days. When I was a kid, it was when you’d get soaked dragging across a pasture of half melted manure trying to treat scouring calves. Winter boots were swapped for gumboots. The water would run, and overnight freezes would glaze over puddles ideal for jumping on. Water running brought out the inner beaver, constructing dams of gravel dumped on roads over the winter. Holes in your gumboots were soon discovered, and icy water would soak your feet as you tested the limits of your boot tops. The air, as always, became rich with rotting fragrances awaiting burn off by the sun.
One spring day in the early 70’s, the family were assembled, except for Dad, for a trip to Edmonton. I forget the occasion, but we were decked out in good clothes waiting for Dad. We waited….and….waited and decided to pass the time visiting a nearby slough swelling with runoff. It had a plank fence running through the middle, and a few boards scattered around, which we stacked up to push into the slough. We climbed along the planks pushing the stacked boards out further and further, then decided to test the buoyancy of our ‘trusty raft’. It almost held up one of us, but not the second or third as the car horn signalled Dad’s arrival. We scrabbled to shore and dumped out boots while standing in sock feet on half frozen mud. A foot squeaking sprint to the farmyard amid laughter was met with the glare…the glare that meant our journey would be delayed slightly for a quick round of corporal punishment. One by one tuning was dispensed with and all three were lined up together. The oldest was close in receiving little velocity, brother two in the middle stepped forward just enough not to catch anything, and myself, furthest out, experienced the wrap around. A winter full of “I’ll give you something to cry about” came to fruition.
These days there are no calves to catch, and I don’t even own rubber boots. Spring is signalled by the out of washer fluid light on my dash and snow melting to reveal what’s left-over from my fall cleanup. The memories of splash-dash-lash still, however, pervade my thoughts as the stench of a winter’s worth of dog poop thaws in the back yard to clear my sinuses.