“Spring is on the Way”
[originally published 3.19.2016 in the Western Itasca Review]
It appears we made it through another winter and a mild one at that! Not a lot of shoveling and only a handful of days with below zero temperatures.
According to the Minnesota Phenology Network, spring officially begins in Minnesota on Saturday March 19 at 11:31 p.m. Of course, we will still have snow in the woods and ice on the lakes on Sunday morning and certainly on Easter, but there will also be a tingle of green in the grass and perhaps a tulip or jonquil emerging on the south side of the house. And any snow we might have in the coming weeks (or months) will not last.
The following news articles highlight signs of spring in the late 1920s and early 1930s. In addition to the blackbirds and robins that we consider the first birds to return to our region, eighty years ago crows were also harbingers of spring. Now though, the crows are here all winter.
For this column I have arranged the news tidbits by month rather than year and as always, I have left the spelling as it was originally published.
Jan 3, 1929 ~ Sober and Saw Crows
“Additional comment on the weather! Frank Miller called The News office last Friday morning and said, ‘Mike Guthrie saw three crows this morning, and Mike was perfectly sober!’ We’ll take their word for it, but if those crows didn’t get out of the country before 1929 arrived, they didn’t have a happy New Year.” [Deer River News]
Jan 12, 1928 ~ Stays all Winter
“It was a wise out blackbird that knew months ago that we were going to have a January thaw. To see a blackbird in Deer River in mid-winter is something unusual, but there is one right here. He can be seen daily feeding in the alley back of the F.W. Miller residence.
“Mr. Blackbird didn’t go south when cold weather came. He found a gracious hostess in Mrs. Millie Hickthier, mother of Mrs. Miller, who feeds him daily. If there is no lunch out when he appears, he scolds in no uncertain terms. Mebbe you can fool the wise guys, but you can’t fool the birds on northern Minnesota winters. Our January thaw this week is a sample.” [Deer River News]
Feb. 16, 1929 ~ Notes
“Indications point strongly towards a free open air concert on the banks of the Bigfork river at Bigfork in about three weeks’ time. The concert will be given by an assembly of frogs that will pour forth all those vocal spring selections that are so welcomed in these parts after a period of several months of 30 below zero weather.” [Bigfork Times]
Feb. 20, 1930 ~ Spring is on the Way
“Emory Hadley called up yesterday afternoon and reported the first crow of the season, seen near County Road station. A few moments later Mrs. Henry Truempler reported seeing three of them. Here’s hoping these harbingers of Spring won’t get their toes frosted before the Mayflowers begin to bloom!” [Deer River News]
Feb. 25, 1926 ~ Find Pussy Willows
“On Friday, Feb. 12th, Wm. Mastellar and John Yuill, while working near the new state fish hatchery at Cutfoot Sioux, found a most unusual token of our fine winter weather. Popple buds were found that were opening, and fully developed “pussies” were waving in the breeze. The circumstance is most unusual, indicating that the weather has not been severe enough to entirely freeze the tree and stop the sap from running. That’s another boost for our fine Northern Minnesota winter weather.” [Itasca News]
Mar. 23, 1928 ~ Notes
“Since the crows have made their appearance, we feel satisfied that spring is at hand and it is a good time to prepare the farm machinery for the spring work.” [Bigfork Times]
Mar. 26, 1926 ~ Notes
“The crows and robbins have returned t Bigfork after spending the winter in the south and their return here receives a cordial welcome. This nice spring weather, which has taken away that great white blanket that has covered mother earth for the past few months, gives us the assurance that the croaking of the frogs and the buzz of the misquittoes will soon be heard. With all the necessities to add to the pleasures of life what chance is there for say complaints in these parts?” [Bigfork Settler]
Apr. 1, 1927 ~ Notes
“Foster Root, who lives out on the Scenic Highway, was in town this week with some more of his big fish yarns which is another sign of spring. His latest is that the lakes weren’t safe for travel this winter on account of the many holes caused by the bass poking their noses out to look at the sun.” [Bigfork Times]
May 2, 1928 ~ First Arbutus Blossoms
“Trailing arbutus is in blossom. The first blooms were brought into town last Friday, although some were reported on Thursday. The time is long past when this beautiful flower could be gathered in the vacant lot in the village, although there are people living in Grand Rapids who remember gathering it where the Central school now stands. It is fund in abundance, however, within two or three miles of the village, and is always eagerly welcomed as the first wild flower of spring, as well as one of the most fragrant and pleasing of the entire season.” [Grand Rapids Herald Review]
May 30, 1934 ~ Albino Robin
“Red Lake Falls folks are interested this week in a white robin which has selected this city in which to establish its home in a tree on the Wm. Nieland farm. Aside from its color, which is white with black markings, the bird is of the same size and habits of the other robins, even to its chirping voice. Mrs. Nieland and others who have viewed the bird from close range state that it does not have “pink” eyes as white mice do. Local folks are speculating on the color of the new arrivals which are expected in this distinctive robin family in the near future. – Red Lake Falls Gazette.” [Grand Rapids Herald Review]
I encourage you to check out the Minnesota Phenology Network www.usanpn.org. It is a wonderful resource for those who like to monitor phenology and share their observations.
Another sure sign of spring is St. Patrick’s Day, so a happy day to those of you with Irish roots and a Happy Birthday to my great-great-great grandfather William Thomas Boxell born on March 17, 1830.