The grass is growing in our yard, and the peach trees in our small orchard began blooming this week. Some of the local nurseries are setting out displays of flowers and potted garden plants, and the warm weather prompted me to put new monofilament on all my fishing reels. Surely winter is over … right?
To drive home the fact that winter simply didn’t show itself while it had the chance between November and early March, and now it’s too late and Mother Nature simply has to admit she missed the window of opportunity, I took one more step to prove it’s officially an early spring. I took the family camping.
By the time you read this we’ll likely be back home unpacking the gear and putting stuff away on the proper shelves. The weather the past two weeks finally got the best of me and I broke the news to my wife and daughter last week that I “really” needed to go camping. You see, all my old camping pictures have been used over and over, and I’m working on a couple “family camping” or “car camping” stories.
Not only would a night under the stars be a perfect backdrop for some new photos for my collection, but since I’m writing about it the whole trip — campsite rental, food, any new gear we buy, mileage — would be tax deductible. Since we spent one night earlier this week meeting with our tax lady and poring over a pile of receipts discussing what we could and couldn’t count … my wife agreed it was perfect weather to get out and find some deductions for the current fiscal year.
As I’m writing this it’s late Thursday night and raining like crazy outside the window. Our plan, pending the rain ends early in the morning, is to load up the camping gear and head to a nearby state park Friday afternoon. Not like a real adventurous camping outing where we’d actually leave the county, this time we’ll just set up the tent and make camp, grill supper over an open flame, enjoy a Pineapple Upside Down cake made in a Dutch oven for dessert as we sit around the fire, spend the night, then fix a big camp breakfast as the sun comes up, break camp by mid-morning Saturday and be back home in less than 15 minutes. I estimate I’ll take around 100 pictures on the trip.
During a meeting at work Thursday morning the conversation turned to people rushing the seasons. It was said that younger gardeners are going to be putting seeds and plants in the ground, prompted by the “May” weather we’ve been experiencing the past couple weeks. The same person said “old timers” would know better than to be fooled by this warm spell and hold off on planting most things until late April or early May … “cause they’ve seen this happen before”.
The same holds true for outdoorsmen. We know that bluegill and other panfish won’t be nesting in gravely shallows of ponds and creeks until early May, when large protective males can be lured into a reaction strike when you toss a crappie jig or flyfishing bug their direction. And smallmouth season in Ozark streams doesn’t open until about Memorial Day weekend, when the spring-fed creeks are finally warm enough to wade in cutoffs and river shoes. But that doesn’t stop us from spooling on new line, thumbing through the tackle bag or box and daydreaming as we see jigs and lures we’ve used with success on spring panfish and smallmouths before. I spent part of two nights last week standing in my garage cleaning up my fishing tackle and gear, and making practice casts in the driveway.
Doing all that reminded me that my hunting and fishing license expired in February, so I need to either visit Wal-Mart or advance to the computer age and purchase and print off my new license myself using the conservation department’s new e-permits system. Truth be known, I’ll end up going to Wal-Mart or a bait shop and buy my license there. I’d prefer to have my proof of outdoor legality printed on that slick shiny paper and have the counter attendant fold it and slip it into a new shiny white envelope for me. I know I could print it at home on copier paper and laminate it or maybe carry it around in a little ziploc baggie, the small kind like the drug dealers use, but it just wouldn’t be the same.
In my short lifetime I’ve already had to give up going each November to the local check station to have my deer kill documented and stand around for 30 or 45 minutes swapping hunting stories with other hunters gathered there for the same reason. No … I’ll keep buying my hunting and fishing license over the counter as long as I can find someone to sell them to me, thank you very much! And I’ve been taking at least one winter camping trip a year (most years) starting back when I was a khaki nicker-wearing Boy Scout some 35 years ago. The only difference is that this winter it’s forecasted to be 80 degrees while we’re camping in March.
Doug Smith lives in an old house, drives an old truck, tinkers with old tractors, is married to a young woman, hunts and fishes often, and can be found on any given day wearing his Buffalo plaid flannel jacket and matching Elmer Fudd hat. ( … and can hardly wait to fix bacon, hashbrown potatoes, eggs, biscuits and gravy in cast iron cookware and then eat them from a blue tin plate.)