It's spring. You'd better bring a shovel
WATFORD CITY, N.D. — Spring fever. There’s nobody else in the world that suffers from it more than my dad.
As soon as the sun hits that ice and snow, warming it up to see some ground exposed, he’s out of the house like a caged bird. He doesn’t know what to do with himself really, so he gets that list in his head going — all the things that need to be fixed, all the fences to check, all the tinkering to do — and then he lets it all fly out his ears as he climbs to the top of the nearest hill and plops himself down in the warmest, driest spot he can find and just lets the sun shine down on him.
That’s his thaw-out ritual. I have witnessed and I have adopted it.
But here’s the other thing about my dad in the spring: When it thaws, he forgets. He forgets that one warm day does not the summer make. He forgets that the 6 feet of snow in the coulees does not melt in a mere two hours of warm sunshine.
But he frolics anyway. And the meltdown happening at the ranch this week reminds me of an incident that happened a few years back that seems to continue on trend year after year.
It was one of the first warm days we’d had in months. There he stood, my dad, in his cap, overalls and muck boots, hammering on the tractor and shuffling around the shop. I parked my car and walked out to see what he was up to.
“Oh, had to get out here. It’s such a nice day. Feels like 60 degrees... water’s really running. Won’t get the tractor fixed today... Oh well... want to come with me to check the horses?”
“Sure. We walkin?”
“No, we’ll take the four-wheeler.”
“Really? You think it will make it?”
“Oh... we can make it... it’s a beautiful day. Beautiful. We’ll bring them some grain. Hop on.”
I hopped on and wondered how this was going to go as Dad took his four-wheeler, me and my doubts along the gravelly, mucky road and then turned, nice and easy off the path and up the melty drift that had been growing and growing all winter long at the entrance of the farmstead.
I let the warm air whip through the hairs that escaped from my beanie. My pale cheeks soaked up the sunshine. My lungs shouted “Woo-hoo!” as they remembered what fresh air above 35 degrees felt like.
I released my white-knuckled death grip as we approached the gate to the horse pasture. Ah, it was springtime and the living was easy, and as Dad went to get the gate, I thought of all of things I was going to do under this big warm sky: plant a garden... lounge with a vodka tonic... clean up all of the things that have magically appeared as the snow disappeared (who put that kayak there?)... wear shorts... avoid washing my windows...
Dad hopped back on and as we continued on our little journey... grill... find my floaties... eat pineapple...
“Jessie... Jess. Jessica!”
“You need to get off.”
And just like that, the green and blue landscape that existed in my head was replaced by reality’s sharp kick in the pants. A good mile from the house and a good half mile to our destination, there we sat in the great white north with a 600-pound four-wheeler buried to its gullets in the heavy, wet, limitless, not-so-springlike snow.
Without a shovel.
I wasn’t surprised. The man has tested the limits of his ATV before, taking the beast where no machine was meant to go: to the tops of buttes; over giant boulders; through fences; up trees; and across muddy, ravenous, woody creek beds. I know because I’ve had to help pull, cut and dig him out.
But this particular day, as I squinted my eyes against the sunshine, I just looked at Dad and laughed. And he shrugged.
We kicked the tires. We pushed a little. We dug a little. We commented about the shovel. And then we grabbed the bucket of grain and abandoned our ride to continue the task at hand.
It was a beautiful day and we didn’t mind walking...
Aw, spring. You can’t rush it, but maybe you can bring a shovel.