Columns » Bob Lancaster




There was a time when, out on a spring jaunt, if you came across a bubbling spring, you could drink from it. Cup your hands. Very refreshing.

Not a good idea anymore. E. coli from the omnipresent chicken doo is one of the lesser concerns. I think what puts me off the worst is the floating zombie bodies. Some wag always has to throw in a Baby Ruth.

Springtime has nothing to teach us mole people of today. What insights does it have to offer on Charlie Sheen? Can you spread a thumb and forefinger and get a zoom view of a scarlet tanager? How much consolation are this spring's cherry blossoms to this spring's Japanese?

There's no volume control on the Great Outdoors, and it totally screws your cell reception if you walk under a waterfall or have to take refuge from a nuclear accident in one of those lead-lined fallout shelters that dot the countryside.

It used to be instructive studying the springtime wildlife. Bambi's mother and Smokey the Bear and Bucky Beaver had life lessons to teach us. But the wildlife have a different agenda now. With the doe deer that agenda is called "Anything for a Buck," but for most of them dodging semis is a full-time job. They don't have time to school naked apes.

I have to say, though, that I've learned more from red-headed woodpeckers than from red-headed peckerwoods.

Dull-eyed and obviously brain-dead adolescents risk their lives to turn picturesque roadsides into ugly mud-slashed ATV tracks that run on for miles, and every spring here come a slew of idiot wildflowers and crimson clover trying like dotty old Lady Bird Johnson to turn these landscapes back into something beautiful. Why? We made this bed, why not let us sleep in it?

Make those shoulder gouges deeper and uglier, more spattered and more offensive, and we might learn something from the spectacle. Hide it with shiner Susans and Zorro asters and who'll ever give a flip?

The same blooms and blossoms cover up a lot of litter that didn't get there without some effort. You have to buy those burger wrappers and fry boxes and drink cans—and they don't come cheap – and if you get no more out of their disposal than just rolling down your car window and tossing the stuff out, not to be seen or thought about again, what's the point of it all? To give jumpsuit prisoners plenitudinous filler for their orange plastic bags?

They say birds are just what's left of dinosaurs, so why are they such a springtime BFD? I'd vote for renaming starlings. Start calling them Charles Krauthammers. About all larks are good for anymore is to make a plural of the word exaltation. As the swallows to Capistrano and the buzzards to Hinckley, OH, the capstone of the spring migration in our little bailiwick is the return of the cowbirds to Ico. Awesome.

You can't make a pet out of a butterfly. They won't fetch. Or speak or roll over or catch mice or any of the things that pets get paid to do. You can't make message carriers of them like spies do pigeons because their feelers droop under the weight of even the lightest canister. And they're worse than a cat if you try to put one of them on a leash. Not good fishbait either.

Stop me if I've told you the one about Mother and the japonica bush ...  Oh, OK then. But you have to admit it encapsulates what's really annoying about the mindless inconquerable indefatigability of spring.

You ever wish that whatever's happened to the bees had happened instead to the wasps? I can't see that total wasp extinction would have a downside. Yes, some of these eunuch fruit wasps do the world a favor (by shepherding the species' ladies unfertilized through their estrus), but they don't do it on purpose. So why give them the big props?

I can co-exist with dirt dobbers (usually misspelled) but their physical resemblance to wasps is too disconcerting for me to ever even consider inviting one of them to one of my frequent soirees.

When there were still bees, they would pack all this pollen into tiny buckets and haul it off to sandbag levees or cut blow. Now, with no bees, the stuff collects on parked cars and window sills and silts up sinuses, transmuting springtime behind your eyes into pure melancholia.

Springtime is when the insects remind you that they can take over any time they want to. They're just waiting till one of them masters the concept of manifest destiny.

I used to like trees. (Well, except pine trees.) But now I spend eight months a year cleaning up after them, so my arboreal ardor has cooled. It's nearly April and I'm still raking last year's merfing leaves. After the brief chartreuse hiatus and the slightly longer emerald interval, it'll be yardbroom deja vu all over again.  On top of which, about all trees do for me now is interfere with my satellite TV reception. People who used to appreciate them for their shade now just stay in the house.  

Fruit trees look good for about two weeks in the spring, but then for 50 weeks they're just a mockery.

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