Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

February 22, 2014

A new season is not far away as winter has but four weeks remaining

— — Is spring really only a month away? For the first time in days, the Peak is visible with only patches of snow beneath the old rock that stands sentinel over the town of Tazewell. I have not yet seen a robin although there were a few seagulls circling a local parking lot last week. Maybe they were on their way to Daytona for the 500.

Here at the high school, our nerves are on edge with the state testing slated to start for my English students two days before the season changes for the first part and the second half will begin on the exact date (March 20) that Four Seasons Country breaks loose for its first official portion this year.

Already some briers and a few hardy bushes are showing signs of green. That signals that I must check my weedeater and get the chain saw in good order. It will soon be too late to cut any trees without getting into green wood and all local brushcutters are getting geared up for spring pruning. We have to get the fence rows cleaned up, too.

Homeowners have lots of yard clutter that has blown in since last fall. Gutters are sometimes sagging after a heavy snow winter like the one still in progress. Flower beds need attention and gardens are on the cusp of waking up. Those handy folks who still do plowing are preparing to cut rows for potatoes, tomatoes, and corn all over the area. Lawnmowers resting quietly are nearing vacation’s end, as well. Spark plugs, gas cans, and trimmer string have a few precious days to relax before the new season starts.

Within the past hour, a brief softball meeting has held to distribute some necessary forms. It will not be long until the baseball squad, track, tennis, soccer and all the spring sports groups are back in action. The snap of a basketball net will give way to the rifle-shot sound of a fastball hitting the catcher’s mitt.

Area golf courses are preparing for the new season. Carts, clubs, and putting greens are all getting attention as the weather permits. In towns all over the region, recreation directors have begun to make necessary adjustments. It will soon be time to open those outdoor pools and local parks. Can picnics be far behind when the little flowers lurking just below the snow packs emerge to signal the end of winter?

It has been weeks since spring clothing first appeared on store shelves. A few brave souls wore flip-flops earlier this week when the thermometer somehow approached a sweltering 60 degrees. Even the winter automobile tires will be taken off before much longer, and the hardware stores have seen an increase in home improvement project purchases. Folks are in the market for mowers and tillers while snow blowers have almost ended their usefulness for another year. It is likely we shall see another major snow fall or two but with the sun climbing just a little higher in the sky each day, that won’t last much longer.

As we return to school issues — the students at the high school level are in the midst of planning for the prom. Yearbook deadlines are fast approaching. Seniors are finishing early applications and awaiting the chance to order graduation announcements before long. Project graduation activities are being finalized and relatives from across the country are just waiting to hear officials dates for commencement so they can come back home for a few days to see nieces, nephews and grandchildren take that coveted walk across the stage.

Farmers are eager to get the grass growing so that the cattle and horses will not eat up so much of that expensive hay after a long, long winter of barren fields and hillsides. Calves born in the midst of the winter are no longer wobbling around and have begun to race around the mountains as the weather shows signs of warming up at long last. Those little wild critters who have struggled to survive will begin to scamper around.

Groundhogs, rabbits and squirrels have had just about all of the cold weather they can stand. Right about now, the gardeners know where those animals are going to go when they look for food. Get the wires and animal fencing ready to protect the lettuce. A slumbering bear someplace, perhaps within sight of your house, will soon awaken and get up to search for that first tasty meal of the new year. More than one person will jump back in amazement to see a hungry bruin ambling through the yard or climbing over fences.

Don’t put up the long sleeves for good and heavy socks still have their uses, at least for a while. There is still some wood to burn in the buck stove. As the late Jerry Clower would surely say, however, relief is on the way.

Larry Hypes, a teacher at Tazewell High School, is a Daily Telegraph columnist.

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