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On The Trail

On The Trail: Spring hothouse

Hectic week, saturating overnight rains that were torrential at times, backyard brook roiled to a soothing roar.

Although it may be impossible, I suspect the upper hayfields I walk each day grew eight inches in a day, downpours soaking our fertile, engorged Earth Mother, pushing seed heads toward the heavens, awaiting bright sunlight to stretch them higher. I just walk the dogs and watch the magic unfurl. And, oh, how the animals love it, moist, dense, gray air, them springing up over the cover, zigging and zagging, bouncing, noses high, seed-covered ears flopping, bodies getting more drenched with each bound, visible delight in their step, low-clinging scents enticing indeed.

I noticed last week that the field swallows were back, swooping and gliding, now bobolinks, which I love to watch flip and flap and flutter and squawk around a hayfield, scolding my spirited gun dogs, white and totally liberated in a most exhilarating open-field ecstasy. Well, sort off. Actually, I can control them if they venture too near the road. But why, other than that, bother? I know the joys of roaming freely and unrestrained, and always have tried to grant the same freewheeling privileges to others, including my late kids.

The Connecticut River temperature was recorded at 62.6 Fahrenheit Tuesday and American shad were running like gangbusters, with 15,000 more through Holyoke, bringing the river count up to 324,473 and climbing, the river temperature likely to dip, stabilize and extend the spawning run. Who knows? We may get a half-million this year. We’ll see. No predictions. Looks promising.

Even the pathetic Atlantic salmon — following to oblivion the same sad trail of tears trudged by the old River Indian tribes before them — are still appearing despite the demise of the Connecticut River’s defunct restoration program, which failed and fled after a valiant half-century effort. Through Tuesday, 18 salmon stragglers had been counted in the river system, and they’re still being captured, tagged and tracked for research. I wonder how long they’ll keep returning? Better still, I wonder if they ever stopped? I guess we’ll never know. Maybe questions like that should have been answered before embarking on the expensive restoration program many years ago.

As go the migratory fish, so goes the information coming my way in the mail, on the phone, in strings of email some who received it would shudder if they knew I was privy. It’s very exciting, and for another day. And, yes, it is news in the opinion of many, including me. All I can say to my sources is, thanks and please keep it coming. I’m tasting, nibbling and gulping it down, storing away the surplus like a sweet cache of seasoning, subterranean butternuts available for later digging when needed. Though the high-protein cache belongs to me, I’m more willing to share when the time is right and hollow bellies gurgle and yearn.

Which reminds me, it seems I ruffled some feathers with that symbolic turtle tale last week. Oh well, comes with the territory, I suppose, although I must admit I’m always amused when attack dogs object to scribes nipping at their heels. Yes, I get a kick out of that, and haven’t even checked the chat boards to see if they’re harpooning me. Who cares? Last I knew, we were all entitled to our opinions in this, the land of the free and home of the brave, where politicians are fair game.

But wait. Are we really free, given that West Coast bombshell that exploded into a national feeding frenzy after TMZ went public with private, secretly taped in-home conversation between spouses or whatever the hell they were? Talk about Big Brother watching! What happened to that gazillionaire who uttered stupid, in-home racist remarks may be more frightening than his unacceptable comments. But that’s just me, a man spawned during the glorious Sixties, when idealism prevailed and we thought we were headed in a new direction. That was before the assassinations.

Damn! I knew I shouldn’t have read Hunter S. Thompson. Dr. Gonzo still does strange things to me. But yes, I do keep coming back for more.

Back to that turtle mangled by a tractor tire in a mowed riverside field I walk daily, a friend called to question my identification of it as a painted turtle in the gruesome photo accompanying the column. He claimed it was no such thing, but instead a wood turtle. My response was that I had since patrolling Bloody Brook and Stokarski’s Pond as a kid always known that particular creature as a painted turtle. Maybe I have been mistaken all these years, but a Google search proved inconclusive, so I’m still trusting my nature-loving mother’s word.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for this week. Back to reading and pondering, talking to myself and to folks on the phone, writing emails to those who know more than I, and trying to put it all together in sharp composition. I may be getting old, but it’s what makes my world go around. No apologies, no regrets.

So, off I go ... this familiar Wednesday chore again in the rear view.

Recorder sports editor Gary Sanderson is a longtime member of the outdoor-writers associations of America and New England. Blog: Email:

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