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Tom Chaney: Backing into spring

Of Writers And Their Books: Backing Into Spring. Tom says I don't give a fig for any groundhog save the one close at hand. This column first appeared 21 February 2010.
The next earlier Tom Chaney column: Cyrus Edwards on the Elizabeth Wilson Family

By Tom Chaney

Backing Into Spring

Along about February every year, I get anxious for spring.

I will not say that I despair of its arrival. Evidence of some seven decades assures me that it will appear. It is that I get ready for it earlier every year.

I don't trust the signs completely, but I will not become a complete agnostic in those matters, ere I inadvertently rattle the slats on the beds of the gods of spring and they wreak vengeance most fearsomely -- perhaps by banishing me to Phoenix.

Prognostication begins in the summer and fall. What does the woolly worm have to say? Is its coat thick or thin and how many rings? How many foggy mornings in August? Every one bespeaks a snow.

Come February, madness reigns. Holy Groundhog's sacred day has been turned into a dreadful Pennsylvania media circus. What can some forced whistle pig in an unpronounceable Pennsylvania hamlet tell us in Kentucky, or anywhere else beyond a five mile radius, about what the weather is going to be?

The wise old cartoon character Hambone once proclaimed that he didn't believe the good lord trusted a lowly groundhog with his business. I don't fully agree with that, believing that the most humble creature can carry divine communications -- witness the calf on the altar of Baal or the lowly woolly worm.

What I mistrust are the prophets of Baal, woolly worms, or groundhogs that see far beyond what revelation doth show.

I don't give a fig for any groundhog save the one close at hand.

The Horse Cave groundhog did not see his shadow.

One morning last week the first robin red breast came to a friend's bird feeder. I pointed to the gathering snow clouds. He just shook his feathers, shrugged his shoulders and pecked at the largess sprinkled about as if to say, "I am here. It is spring. Could I have some more of those smaller seeds?"

Folks gathered after church a Sunday or two ago shivering in the vestibule. One was marveling at the little blue flowers peeking up beneath the snow. "Could they be crocii?" Probably not, another opined, but they are the harbingers of crocus.

Sometimes it behooves one to try to rush the season. I had a tonsorial encounter this past week. If I have the winter's growth of hair and beard sheared back to the length of spring, perhaps the season will not dawdle.

I have to admit that I drove home from that session in a blizzard, but I have to note that the snow could have been thicker, the ice more treacherous were not the corner turned to spring.

And that same night another clear sign of spring was present. Steve Riley and his Mamou Playboys were performing at the Capitol Arts Center in Bowling Green [2010]. Mr. Riley and his band had flown boldly backward to Kentucky into not quite spring while informing us that they came from where spring was. There was dancing in the aisles.

Do not, dear friends, despair. We live in a fine land annually subject to spring where the lion roareth, the columbine twineth, and the whangdoodle mourneth for her first born.

Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at
Box 73 / 111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749
Email: Tom Chaney -

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