Hoping for a dry spring

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By Rich Creason | For The Times-Post

Of the four seasons (not the singing group), spring is my least favorite.

This dates back as far as I can remember.

It was always my job to clean the dog’s feet when he had been playing outside in the mud from spring rains.

It seemed like a never ending job until summer dried the yard.

And of course, I had to take my boots off every time I came in the house.

I could understand this because I was always in the barn lot taking care of our horses. And put them back on and lace them up 30 minutes later when I went back out.

When I went to college, I thought spring would improve.

Actually, it affected one of my grades for my junior year.

I was taking dendrology (tree identification). This was a full year class, twice a week, three hours on every Tuesday and Thursday.

This class always met outdoors, rain or shine.

In the fall, it was a great class.

During the winter, we tramped through the woods, regardless of the cold and/or snow.

When spring arrived, we braved the wind, rain and even heavy storms.

For this course, we had a clipboard with a sheet of paper on it.

The paper had 20 small strips with blanks on each to fill in the common name of the tree and also the scientific name (which had to be spelled correctly or we lost points on the test.)

The instructor would point to a tree and say, “Name that tree.”

Often in the spring, I would look up to try to identify a leaf, and the rain would coat my glasses and get in my eyes.

It seemed like even with the best raingear (which wasn’t very good back 50 years ago), when you looked up, the water ran down your neck.

Imagine three hours of this.

When I finally tried to guess the tree, I wrote the name on the little strip of paper to hand to the instructor.

By that time, it was the consistency of a spitball. I think I could write anything on it because I’m not sure he would be able to read it anyway.

Even when it wasn’t raining, spring was a tough time to identify a tree.

The buds on the end of each twig were easily identified in the winter.

The bark, location of the tree, and the shape of each tree also helped in the identification.

I had very few mistakes in the winter.

Of course, in late spring, the leaves were out and while not as easy as winter, identification was fairly easy.

Fall had all the identifying characteristics except the buds, and I did very well on most trees.

But in early spring, the winter buds were breaking open and bud identification was gone.

The leaves, which would show up shortly, were still tiny and not easily visible.

It seem like I would miss most of my IDs this time of year. (And so did most of the other students.)

But even after many decades, tree identification is still the class I remember the most and am still good at it.

That was one of the many classes I took at Purdue that helped when Angi was in 4-H.

Early tree projects just needed one leaf from each tree for her collection.

Later, more advanced projects called herbariums required at least three leaves of each tree identified correctly.

It really upset me when she was in school and they required a leaf collection in the fall, and an insect collection in the spring.

It should be the other way around. Few insects are out in early spring, and tree leaves are torn and eaten in the fall making it difficult to get good specimens.

Now, I am older. (Much older!), and we are back to cleaning the dog before he comes in the house when the yard is wet. (We have an American Eskimo, which is pure white with very long hair. And he loves to play in the rain and mud.)

Spring means mowing and trimming the yard (I don’t like either), cleaning gutters (which I don’t do!), and watching my garden flood and drown my little seedlings as they poke their heads through the soil.

All I can look forward to now is for summer when heat and sun will eliminate some of my problems.

Rich Creason is an award-winning outdoors and travel writer whose work has appeared in local, regional, national and international publications for 40 years. Born in Anderson, he is a graduate of Markleville High School. He lives in South Madison County with his wife, Susie. He may be contacted at [email protected].