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Vertrees: Onset of spring brings back memories of youth

Carrol Vertrees

Carrol Vertrees

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Updated: April 10, 2013 12:33PM



My thoughts are not as lofty as Tennyson’s — he wrote that in the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love — he didn’t say much about old men.

But in the diaries of my heart, my fancy turns eagerly to kid days on the farm. Tennyson should have been there, down where the persimmons grow and there is no temperamental lake to send a chill on a nice warm day. Back home, when spring sprang, it usually stayed sprung.

By this time, we were thinking eagerly about the end of school. Eight months was enough. It soon would be barefoot time, freedom from tests and other noxious stuff, time to help mom in the garden in exchange for some delicious cookies.

In the diaries of my mind, I see clearly some events that would have challenged Tennyson to describe. Like when my brother and I got hit by what some folks called the seven-year itch. Our mom smeared some really hot, smelly ointment onto our young bodies and we ran naked around the yard trying to cool down.

I remember that some hens and an arrogant rooster watched and made clucking noises, probably saying in chickenese something like “what fools these naked mortals be.”

Later, though, we laughed at the rooster when he swallowed a busy bumblebee. He did what we called the Daviess County twist, movements that looked remarkably like a dance that Elvis did decades later. I think of it now as “The Sting.”

Alfred Lord Tennyson never saw anything like that.

One of our chores, before graduating to driving mules hitched to a plow, was cutting potatoes for planting — being sure to leave a couple of eyes — did you remember that potatoes have eyes? Not for seeing, but essential to propagation. One day I sliced off a sliver of my left forefinger. I planted it but it never grew. It had no eyes, you see. But I can still see the scar.

In those long-ago days, small, compact rural areas sat like welcoming oases in a big desert of America that soon lost its simple personal charm to development. Many of us cannot go home again because home is not there anymore, except in the face books of our hearts. Even the aging silos seem sad. Some have given up. The big barnyard strawstacks are gone. That is why remembering is important, so that there will be no missing links in our journey through life.

People who are more sophisticated than I may scoff at memories of potato eyes and dancing roosters. They nourish different perspectives, and perhaps have their own memories of the little things that mean a lot. They may not have searched for four-leaf clovers in the back yards of their childhood, but the warming sun of spring will create a montage of memories, even if they resist. That’s how it is.

On warm days near the end of our school year, when I left the bus, I sometimes skipped barefoot up the sandy lane to our friendly farmhouse. I can see those tracks now as in my memory my fancy lightly turns to thoughts of cookies in the kitchen and a dancing rooster.

Thoughts of love? They were germinating in the garden of my kid mind, like those potatoes, with eyes wide open, eager to burst through into the sunlight of spring.

But that is private stuff.



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