The wind is sighing through the treetops, hopefully bidding the last vestige of cold rain good-bye. It has been a stormy week, with heavy rain studded with hail, and strong winds that created havoc in many places. We were spared the brunt of it, although in lots of areas uprooted trees and downed power lines bore witness to the damaging winds.
The brave little coltsfoot, the very first wildflower of the spring, is now blooming along the roadside and bank. Their small yellow flower, resembling a dandelion, blooms before the leaves appear. They are a faithful reminder that spring is truly here.
This would be marble season when I was a kid. Just as soon as the March wind dried up the mud, it was time to dig out the marbles. Bicycles were rare, and skateboards were non-existent, but everyone had marbles.
The old two-room schoolhouse had a large playground, completely devoid of grass and tromped smooth by hundreds of running feet. It was a perfect place for marble playing.
It was good for hopscotch too—all you needed was a piece or two of glass (for marking the squares,) some pebbles and perfect balance. The girls played hopscotch; no boy was ever caught playing such a sissy game. But we girls were not above playing marbles—with each other, of course.
With our knobby knees grinding in the dirt and our pigtails stuck straight out, we played “Four Holes and a Peewee” with much squealing and giggling. The boys played with deadly aim and deadly earnestness. With shouts of “I’ve got dibs on you” and “No fudging” to “Knucks down!” they played their ring marble games every recess and noon hour.
Each boy had his favorite shooting marble, called a “kimmy” or “shooter” which he guarded well and kept in his possession. Daddy never allowed us to play “Keeps” which he considered a form of gambling, but of course the boys sneaked and did it anyway. Criss must have been a sharpshooter, as he had a small churn full of marbles when we got married. Time, sons and grandsons have well disposed of them.
Mothers must surely look back on the marble games with mixed emotions, for they took their toll in the knees of our blue jeans. It was impossible to keep the holes out—Mom patched the knees, and then patched the patches. Still the marble games went on.
Some things never change though. Kids still act out their favorite comic strip characters. I see my grandsons pretending to be “The Hulk” and “Spiderman.” It makes me think of us kids imitating the “Katzenjammer Kids” of our time. Alen Wayne always got to be “Capt’n while Larry and I were Hans and Fritz.
Our oldest son Mike, and his sister Patty, with their close friend Terry, played “Tarzan” by the hour. Patty was the youngest, and she always had to be Cheetah. She was recalling the other day how they always made her carry a suitcase through the woods. She never did figure out the suitcase.
It will soon be time to roam through the woods again (without a suitcase) and examine the spring flowers and plants that come up fresh and tender. I like to look for wild ginger while hunting morels. It grows low on the ground, and has a dark red-brown flower growing right between the leaf stalks.
The root has a strong ginger-like odor, and can be used as a substitute for ginger. I want to dig some roots and cook them with sugar—I love to experiment with wild foods. Another early spring plant that I like to find is “Adam and Eve.” It is also called “puttyroot.” A single long leaf, almost like a narrow-leaf plantain, betrays its round, edible corm. I always wipe off the dirt and chew it, although it glues my teeth together.
The showy trillium, with its snowy white blossoms, is beginning to bloom in rich, woodsy places. Some folks call it “wild cabbage,” and gather it for greens. I have never been able to destroy the flowers for a mess of greens. There is another wild flower that is good for greens, but I can’t bear to pick it for the same reason.
We call it a trout lily, or dogtooth violet, but it is not a violet at all but is of the lily family. Trout lily refers to the similarity between the leaf markings and those of the brown or brook trout. They grow lushly on the banks of William’s River, in the rich, moist soil there.
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