I see, according to the weather watchers, that this spring will be a wet one. That means problems for anyone depending on dry weather to get outdoor activities accomplished.
For many of us that’s an inconvenience — for farmers fighting a deadline it can mean unbelievable pressure. As long as I can remember, timely spring planting is one of the most important demands for a good profitable year.
Thanks to Iowa’s fertile soil and today’s modern equipment, the deadline can be a little less demanding than just a few years ago. But you can bet once the rain quits, it’s not long before you see activity all across the landscape.
Looking at those black fields each early spring, I can’t help but think back to a time when I had a firsthand experience with Iowa’s rich fertile soil.
It’s been a long time ago, nearly 70 years. I was a junior high student, doing my best to concentrate on studies while realizing that the world outside was coming alive and I was confined within the four walls of a classroom.
It was bad enough spending the majority of daylight hours of each spring day in school, without being reminded by my parents to be home for supper by 6 p.m. – that left less than three hours to explore all the wonders of nature during the most exciting time of the year.
With a deadline like that, my buddies and I wasted little time after school getting out to where the action was. If this meant hauling along our homework, so be it!
One sunny day we decided to go on a crawdaddy hunt. The weather had been warm and rainy for several days before. The creeks which normally were nearly dry would now be alive with a steady stream of icy cold water.
Just a couple of miles from town was a perfect crawdaddy spot. The creek bed was lined with good-sized rocks, ideal for the little creatures to hide under. All it took to be an expert hunter was quick hands that didn’t mind cold water and getting pinched by an angry victim.
Our hunch proved to be correct. The stream was flowing and the pesky little crayfish were in their favorite hiding places. We spent the better part of a couple of hours grabbing enough of them to fill several coffee cans.
When we finally realized the time, it was too late to do anything but be in trouble. We hurriedly grabbed our belongings and made tracks for town.
Suddenly, someone came up with a great scheme. Instead of walking two miles of gravel roads, we could take a shortcut across a couple fields and cut our trip in half. It seemed to be an ideal answer to our dilemma.
The grass in the pasture we first entered was short enough that we could even run. It seemed we weren’t going to be nearly as late as we had originally feared. But, as we crawled over the fence separating the pasture from the next field, all we could see between us and town was an ocean of black shiny earth left after a recent plowing.
Our rate of travel rapidly decreased from a run, to a trot, to a walk, to a crawl. Each step we took became a greater chore. The mud on the soles of our shoes quickly swelled into balls of black cement. Those black blobs began to act like plungers. Each time we took a step, it created a vacuum that was nearly impossible to pull out.
We must have looked like a pack of flies caught on a sheet of flypaper. Our shortcut had become a nightmare and the time we had saved crossing the pasture was quickly lost in the quagmire.
When we finally got across the field, we were mighty exhausted explorers. The books under my arm had gained an extra pound or two, thanks to a coating of mud. This sort of evened things out, considering the loss of weight of two shoes which I had left somewhere in the middle of the muddy field.
Things weren’t exactly friendly at home that night. Not only was I late, I had lost a good pair of shoes and nearly destroyed two schoolbooks.
There was a bright spot, however. No matter how bad things got during our trip across that muddy field, I had managed to hold on to the can of crawdaddys without losing a one.
Unfortunately, my folks weren’t the least bit impressed!
Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times.