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On The Trail

Flower power

It’s that hopeful time of year when things are happening and, no, I haven’t given up on Bull Head Pond. In fact, I have exciting new discoveries pertaining to that forgotten spot, now in another location just a stone’s throw from the 20th century pond called Bull Head that I reluctantly accepted as the one last week. But, please, let’s give this subject rest. I have other seasonal fare on my plate this week, including salmon mischief.

To start with, the front of my property is colorful this week, adorned in various shades of red cast by the ornamental trees along the southern perimeter. Rarely do they simultaneously display color like they are this year, with even the fading yellow forsythia still hanging in there, perhaps due to lack of rain. Although that will change overnight, the bush as I look at it now is still sporting yellow, though much greener than a week ago. It’s just sitting there like a tabletop bouquet beneath the outstretched limbs of the mellow magenta apple and one of the large, deep-red Japanese-maple twins. Three ornamental cherries in the west corner add a soft, seductive pink, while the shedding saucer magnolia of a similar hue way around the eastern side is visible in a panoramic view, with a small splash of red quince blossoms dabbed in between. Yes, spring bloom can be inspiring indeed, not to mention the cool, clear air flowing through the windows south to north, bulkhead wide open to allow damp winter spirits to tiptoe up the sturdy stone stairs and escape, leaving behind devilish thoughts to ricochet about and stir introspection like bubbles emerging after a kid playfully blows down a striped, jointed straw into a foamy root-beer float.

Yeah, I know it’s been dry thus far, but otherwise a textbook spring, the fiddleheads long gone, replaced by tall ostrich ferns that seem to grow a foot in a few days once the tight clumps of tasty morsels sprout and climb to the sun. With that savory treat in the rearview, the asparagus is in, requiring many trips back to my old stomping grounds dominated by the Sugarloafs, north and south, which always bring cozy karma. Although I no longer live down there, it’ll always be a home that’s branded deep into my soul’s shell. I could really feel the homey vibes at a Sunday-night farm wedding I attended in an old friend’s tented Hillside Road backyard, bordered by Jackson Road and the headwater marsh from which infamous Bloody Brook springs atop Long Hill, on the plain known before my day as Turnip Yard.

Although I’m trying hard not to meander off the rails, why is it that I suspect it’ll be a good year for fruit and berries? I have no fancy degrees in anything related to the subject but it thus far seems like the kind of spring that will bring bountiful fruit harvests, that’s all. If so, it promises to be a good year for the pesticide-free raspberries and blueberries along my western border. Then again, maybe not. Who knows? A lot can happen between now and harvest time. That has been particularly clear in recent years, when there has seemed to be no limit to weather weirdness.

But, back to the present, word has it that some fellas are having a tough time of it turkey hunting for boss gobblers that “henned-up” a week before the season. I knew from casual observation that this phenomenon had occurred, because I had on my way to work seen a boisterous longbeard showing off nightly for five or six ladies in “POSTED” corn stubble. My friend tried to kill that gobbler a few mornings last week and departed muttering to himself, and me, before moving on. His biggest obstacle was inability to hunt that forbidden abutting property, where the birds are roosting and gallivanting. He could get plenty close enough to get old Tom-Tom all jacked up — the big bird gobbling his fool head off and moving in my buddy’s direction before digging his long spurs in, getting stubborn and “hanging up” along a brushy fence row. From that point, that big bird demanded that my buddy come to him, no matter how love-sick his plaintive yelps sounded. Oh well, they say patience is a virtue. If my pal sticks in there and doesn’t get frustrated or impulsive, he may yet catch that big boss tom willing to throw caution to the wind at a vulnerable moment of hormonal imbalance. I’d say the odds are against him, though, given the territorial disadvantage he’s facing. I tried to explain the dynamic by using a simple metaphor we can all get our heads around. Supposing he was playing the role of a gluttonous Arabian sheik, I told him, and had settled into a comfortable honeymoon suite for the weekend with a young, attractive harem of five serving him oh-so faithfully. Would he, enjoying such a favorable arrangement, answer an old girlfriend’s telephone caller-ID or a mistress’s rap on the door? All he offered was a guttural chuckle to suggest the answer no.

That reminds me: another friend wanted me to know that his father told him to tell “Old Bull Head” that his shad bushes are blooming. I knew, had actually seen the flowering bush in my daily travels. But I didn’t need that harbinger to clue me in to the shad and salmon runs under way. Daily email reports told me long ago that anadromous fish are running. Through Tuesday, some 79,000 shad and 12 salmon had passed Holyoke, where the water temperature reads 61.7 Fahrenheit; which, go figure, leads me straight into a risqué subject some may find alluring. You’ve probably heard or read by now that the aggressive, half-century, federal and state Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon-Restoration Program came to an abrupt halt last year. Yes sir, it seems that the program’s true-believers could no longer justify the expense during hard times fueled by unfunded wars and diabolical Wall Street schemes, so they up and pulled the freakin’ plug. Well, sort of, which doesn’t mean salmon will immediately stop migrating. Not yet, anyway. Now, following decades of coordinated salmon captures and nurturing the captives to optimal health with chemicals before overseeing controlled spawning (artificial mixing of milt and eggs) and ubiquitous stocking of hatchery-reared progeny in tributaries up and down the valley, fisheries officials are just sitting back and waiting to see what transpires.

As expected, the salmon run hasn’t just halted because crews are no longer traveling back and forth to fish passageways to transport captured returnees to Sunderland’s Cronin Salmon Station. To the contrary, salmon are indeed still migrating upriver, and thus far 12 have been counted passing Holyoke. Think about that for a minute. Wouldn’t it be interesting if these fish keep coming for years to come and, in fact, ultimately start returning in greater numbers than they ever did when well-meaning scientists insisted upon human intervention and micro-management — capturing, carting, medicating and “artificially” spawning wild fish in a controlled, Christian manner that may not have been necessary. That’s not to suggest that the current “au-naturel” method will turn out to be a better route to the original restoration goal of creating a viable sport fishery. All I’m saying is that I would laugh out loud if it turns out that way. And I can’t say I’ve never opined right here, based solely on good old-fashioned common sense, that maybe those fish they were imprisoning would be better off if left alone to spawn in a natural setting. Yes, I had the audacity to speculate that perhaps wild fish would do better spawning in the Sawmill or South or Bear, the Deerfield or Millers rivers than confined at Cronin Station in boring, sterile, cement tanks, raceways and indoor pools.

It’s true that Atlantic salmon will most likely soon stop migrating up our Connecticut River basin now that the funding has vanished, probably sooner than later, marking the end of an altruistic, half-century experiment that has been fading off into the sunset for decades. Then again, maybe, just maybe, there’ll be a miracle of sorts and the salmon will keep coming, with numbers gradually increasing to an annual migration approaching what the scientific community desired way back when but could not deliver.

Yes, wouldn’t a development like that be hilarious indeed, not to mention totally comprehendible to those who worship freedom and liberty and autonomy in its purest forms, minus the red, white and blue nonsense?

All I can say is that as the preachers and politicians weep, I’ll be laughing hysterically if those taxpayer-funded Connecticut River-strain salmon start running like gangbusters after gaining creative freedom for private matters.

What a hoot that would be, huh? Proving one more time that missionary-style ain’t for everyone.

Recorder sports editor Gary Sanderson is a longtime member of the outdoor-writers associations of America and New England. Blog: www.tavernfare.com. Email: gary@oldtavernfarm.com.

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