Spring on the farm was always welcome - as it is everywhere in this northern climate. But before you could really enjoy it you had to get through mud season. This was originally published in April 1989.
Around our farm, and I suspect around many other dooryards in the countryside at this time of year, the scope for hippopotamus blood-cooling extends as far as the eye can see.
As usual, the really soupy stuff extends from just outside the kitchen door, runs down across the dooryard, takes in the space where the cars are parked, and covers all possible approaches to the barn.
It is hard to explain to guests, who come from tidy places like West Germany, that the mud in our dooryard is not the outward and visible sign of some inward and invisible moral decay. This is especially true now, when all the wood ashes we dumped on the ice in those same areas, to stop us from sliding down the hill in the winter, have now emerged as a seemingly permanent grey sludge coating the top of whatever stepping stones we do have.
Getting into the car right now is a challenge! "Let's see ... if I stand on the top edge of that wheel rut, can I open the door, twist around in mid air, and fall toward the seat, rocking backwards at the same time, so as to lift my feet clear of the mud and swing them triumphantly in with the barest minimum of the muck from the wheel rut following along?"
That is not an easy question to answer, since it involves several unknowns. For instance, who drove this car last? Since our whole purpose in life around here seems to be to keep the wheels of the automotive industry turning, this is not an easy question to answer. Probably we should hang a little sign in the window with the name of the last driver, but that would involve a level of organization hitherto unknown in these circles.
If I drove the car last then the driver's seat will be far enough back to let me in without risking hip displacement by jumping for the interior. If my wife drove the car last, then not only is the seat too far forward, but the back is puritanically upright, and the same leap will leave me looking and feeling like the one-too-manyeth sardine squeezed into the can by a novice packer at the canning factory. The whole maneuver lacks grace, if you see what I mean. Furthermore, suspended thus between the steering wheel and the seat back, and with a displaced hip, I can never remember on which side of the seat to find the thingummy which allows the seat to slide backwards. Meanwhile, there is the mud.
So here I am, standing first on one foot and then on the other, about five feet astern of my trusty car, weighing the possibilities, while the ground upon which I am standing begins to sink slightly and the water rises, and I think - too late - of hip waders. How is it, I ask the grosbeaks in the tree above me (who are too busy arguing with each other to pay the slightest attention), how is it that those wheel ruts came to be just there, looking as though they had been designed by some Dungeons and Dragons Master, intent on keeping the car safe from any and all intruders, including the owner?
And another thing, how firm is the top of this wheel rut, that looks like the Isthmus of Panama between the various pools of goo? If I tip-toe along it, and then lean over so as to reach the door handle, will Isaac Newton come to its aid, reminding it that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and so encourage it to move backwards away from the car at a speed which leaves my spinal cord looking like one of the cables on a suspension bridge, while my fingers grip the rain gutter above the car door and my feet and shoes explore ways and means of returning from half-way under the other vehicle, which is where they will have fetched up when the spinal cord reaches equilibrium?
On second thought, maybe I don't really need to go to town right now. If you see a hippopotamus or two, send them right over.
Words & Images
We moved to our farm in Sussex, New Brunswick from Toronto in 1977, only moving away in 2014.