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5/21/2020
Publisher’s Note: As referenced in the May-June 2020 print issue of On Wisconsin Outdoors, the Ellis column Memorial Day-Trading it all… directs the reader to this website for stories of Americans in battle during World War II and Vietnam.  Posted in the April 30 Ellis Blogs on this website Tanks in a Mine Field is the eye witness story of 709th Tank Battalion gunner John “Mike” Kunnen during the bloody battle of t...
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Waiting for Spring…

By Darrell Pendergrass

Like many people who live here in northern Wisconsin I’m waiting patiently for warmer weather to arrive.

However, my patience is wearing thin as this is quickly becoming the slowest arriving spring I’ve ever known; which is quite an accomplishment as I spent four years in Fairbanks, Alaska as a child. In fact, it isn’t often that area children have had to dig through fields of snow in search of eggs left behind by the Easter Bunny, which was the case this time around for much of Wisconsin. When will spring ever get here?  And now new, heavy snow greets May and the supposedly open-water season.

This cold weather has certainly cut into my opportunities to pursue my sporting pleasures. In the past three weeks I’ve done very little in the out-of-doors. There is still snow in the yard. There is still ice on the lake. And in my home the television-station weathermen are still suffering at the bottom of the public opinion polls. Even our orange cat is angry with those guys.

My son, who isn’t old enough yet to be as jaded as his father, went ice fishing a week ago. Jack and his friends caught a dozen or so panfish through the ice, had no worries about falling through, and made the best of what’s a poor situation. Typically we’d have been stringing up our flyrods and planning trips to the Brule River in anticipation of steelhead season. Yet, with the weather being what it is, these river-fishing adventures seem somehow distant. It can’t possibly be steelhead season, not yet.

I have been outside, though. But being outside is not the same as being outdoors. Outside I’ve hauled hay. Outside I’ve mucked through wintery barn stalls.  Outside I slipped and fell on the ice over by the cars. Outside I’ve stood squinting red-faced in gale-force winds waiting for my wife’s little Boston terrier to finish her business; none of which makes for good outdoor fun.

We have managed to get off the couch and throw the baseball just a bit, over on the brown patch of open road by the garage. While the major leaguers enjoy games of baseball on the lush green fields of their home stadiums, our games include ski masks, winter boots and dives into nearby snow banks. It isn’t quite the same. Not by a long shot.

The sandhill cranes that nest along the lake near our home think it is spring. A little squadron of cranes floated over the pines and descended onto the ice last night. As I was skating out to the car this morning I heard the cranes calling for their friends, evidence they think the weather should be further along.

The turkeys that loiter in the nearby pines have also been strutting along the roadway. During the infrequent treks I make up the road with our dog I’ve seen many turkey tracks pressed firmly in the mud and ice. Turkey tracks can be a bit deceiving though, as you can’t always determine how many turkeys it takes to make a gazillion tracks.

Inadvertently we’ve been feeding the deer near our place during this spring season. My wife Queenie pays particular attention to the quality of hay that her brood of horses ingests, if it isn’t up to standard she’ll have me pitch it outside the corral. Anyhoo, a dozen or so deer have found the discarded hay meeting with their approval as they’ve given this dining establishment a five-star rating.  They come often.

Then there’s the rabbit. A rabbit has moved into a burrow beneath the hay barn, from the living room we often seem him over there as munching on sloughed off hay. Sometimes he hangs out in the horse stalls. For a bit the rabbit holed up under the deck for a few days, munching on the front-yard shrubbery, which almost led to this demise. And evidently he’s been inside the hay barn as evidence from his goings. (I’d given a dollar to know this rabbit’s thoughts when he first gazed upon the mountain of hay inside this barn.)

Only the chickens have enjoyed this less than stellar weather. Despite the cold temperatures, for the first time since mid-November the four hens have been able to loiter outside the coop. They mill around by the back-yard pines and venture inside the horse fence. Somehow I think the hens want even warmer temperatures, too, as there aren’t bugs about to peck at.

So, there it is. I’m waiting for spring.

Darrell Pendergrass lives in Grand View.