When I was a lad in grade school, it was common for most of the pupils to walk home for lunch. Some brought their lunch to school but most of us went home to eat. Lunch hour in those days usually was most of an hour and provided ample time for most of us to walk home, eat and return to school for some free time before afternoon classes.
In the fall those walks were a welcome break but not in winter. As spring approached our steps might have quickened as we knew that spring and vacation was coming nearer. Clearly we were fed up with winter and longed for spring. Today they call it cabin fever.
Many times I have stated that my first early warning of spring’s approach is the first sighting of a robin. I have noted these for so many years that I confidently predict the first one by March 7th most years and I’m seldom wrong by more than a day or two. But robins, like crocuses and snowdrops, are not an infallible sign of warm weather and, normally, there is at least one good snowfall after sighting the first robin. And so I wait anxiously for another confirmation. And, for me, that sign is the first dandelion.
For years after I had set up housekeeping, dandelions were the bane of my yard chores. They thrived and survived all but the most vicious lawn mowing. And in any case usually returned by the next morning. I fought them with weed killer and fertilizer, usually combined, and was rewarded by many fewer dandelions but a much more vigorous and fast growing lawn. For those of you who enjoyed the lawn gardening wars, the back and forth must have been invigorating, but for me it was anything but. A good friend of mine, Bill McDaniel Sr., once threatened to blacktop his yard and paint it green. While that may have seemed a bit extreme to some, I didn’t think so.
Dandelions seem to be trying in other ways. Once you seem to have them controlled, even conquered, in spring, they merely rest and wait for fall when they once again burst forth in all of their glory and might. I pretty much surrendered in the war several years ago. Now they come and go at their leisure.
You have probably gathered by now that I have a strong dislike of dandelions but that would be wrong. There are few things in my life that I can recall with greater pleasure than a really soft, sunny, warm spring late forenoon and walking home to lunch while viewing the first dandelions in riotous bloom. We all must have a million memories but few of us can recall more than a few in detail. The rest all just blend together into nostalgic and pleasurable thoughts.
How is it then that I can recall those first spring dandelions in such pleasurable detail? To be sure they were a harbinger of real spring. But close behind came the certain knowledge that soon I would be engaged in a life and death struggle with them and they would certainly survive me. But no matter; I love seeing that first full blush of dandelion blooms and quickly see that enjoyment turn to dread and disaster. Dandelions are a very mixed blessing. I’m really glad we have them.