As the temperature rises into the 40s and 50s over the next few days, one thing is certain: There will be mud. In honor of that annual mucky mess, here’s a column John Holyoke wrote back in 2013. Laugh with him, not at him. Please. He’s still traumatized by his annual get-stuck-in-the-mud adventures.
Maine does not have a corner on the “mud” market. Deep down, I know that’s true. Of course, Maine doesn’t have a corner on the “Paul Bunyan” market, either. Or the “lobster” market, for that matter. Heck, there are even other places where folks will sidle up to you and say “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.”
To which I say, “Hey, chummy: Blow it out your …” Well, you can guess the rest.
For today, let’s assume that this is the only place with finicky weather. The only place you can find a real crustacean. The true home state of the world’s most famous lumberjack (and his big blue buddy).
And (say it with me!) Mud Capital of the Free World!
Yes, we Mainers love to tell others, in our best Tim Sample-ish, real-live Down Easter accent, that ’round these pahts, there’s not four seasons. Nope. Not good enough for us. We got your other seasons, sure we do. Spring and summer (though short enough that the name ought to be contracted let’s call it “sum.”) Autumn? Yeah, we got that, though nobody really calls it that: It’s fall. Winter? Plenty of winter. It lasts nearly into “sum,” some years.
Then, we’ve got Mud, we’ll tell you. Har. Har. Har. Mud Season. Get it?
It’s a simple fact, of course. If you put four feet of snow on a perfectly good pasture (or dirt road, for that matter), when that snow decides to give up the ghost, all that water’s gotta go somewhere. And when it does (often all in one day, it seems), the season is upon us. Mud (which, of course, nobody else, anywhere, any time, can legally claim: It’s all Maine’s).
I’ve got a love-hate relationship with good ol’ Mud. Or, more accurately, I have a hate-hate relationship with it, and I have decided to laugh about my not-so-infrequent misadventures.
Or, as we Mainers might say: “When Mother Nature gives you mud, cripe! Make a pie already!”
Of course, mud pies aren’t even half the fun you can have during the season we call Mud.
Heck, you can dig canals in your dooryard mud (so that the resulting flood waters, thanks to all those melting feet of snow) doesn’t wash all your loam down into the street.
Or you can have a mud ball fight (which, honestly, my childhood chums used to do quite regularly, up until one unfortunate little buddy took a Nolan Ryan-esque fastball to the ear and spent the next week digging topsoil out of his noggin).
Or you can do like I do: Just go out there and get stuck. Right-and-properly stuck. (If you’re curious about what qualifies as “right-and-properly” stuck, as opposed to “plain-old, garden-variety” stuck, here’s the rule: If you can extricate yourself, it doesn’t count. “Right-and-properly” stuck folks need help whether they’ll accept that aid or not.
One of my favorite childhood memories revolves around a time (OK, several times) when I got “right-and-properly” stuck in a garden. Which, I suppose, means that it was a “garden-variety, right-and-properly” stuck situation. Which makes it a double-winner, in my book.
We had a garden, you see. A big’un. And during the season of Mud (every year, imagine that!) it turned into the biggest, suckiest, muckiest mess you’ve ever seen.
But I was brave. I was fast. I was ambitious. I was also very young and stupid as a boot.
Close as I can tell, I was about 8 when I started my spring garden adventures. I continued for several years after that — still stupid as a boot, of course — until I finally gained a little — um — perspective. Or maybe I just got tired of getting in trouble for the same stupid act every spring — um — Mud.
The game went like this: Little John, to himself: “This is the year. I’m big enough. I’m fast enough.” (Little John eyes the sucky, mucky patch of earth). “Yup. This year, I can do it. I’m sure that last year was a fluke. I’m POSITIVE that this time, I’ll be able to run all the way across the garden without getting stuck.”
And then, bravely, stupid-as-a-boot-ly, Little John would back up a few yards, get a running start, and mire himself in the sucky, mucky mud.
The next year, he’d (OK, I’d) do the same thing, perhaps after taking a little longer running start, having determined that the lack of a proper head start was the reason the previous year’s foray had failed so miserably.
And the next year. And so on.
The result was always the same: About four steps from “shore,” as I had begun thinking of it, I’d become “right-and-properly” stuck.
At which point, without fail, my mom would walk down to the garden, scold me a bit and hoist me back to dry land.
It seems that she always knew when I was fixing to try my annual run. And it seems (or so she tells me now) that she was always watching from the kitchen window, wondering, like me, if this was finally the year.
Not “the year that John finally conquers the garden,” mind you. No, mom tells me now, essentially, that she wondered something like this: “Is this the year that John finally grows out of his stupid-as-a-boot phase?”
I think I did grow out of it. Either that, or the fact that my mother threatened to leave me there (after having to take a second trip into the garden in order to rescue one of my stupid boots) finally sunk into my own mind-muck.
Either way, I learned a lesson.
Not that I stopped getting stuck, of course. I’ve been stuck in trucks. In cars. Once, I nearly got stuck while wading out to do a little Mud season fishing.
I can hear you chuckling. Perhaps you’re laughing at me. Or perhaps, like we Mainers often say, you’re laughing with me.
Maybe you’re a little bit of a mudder, too. Maybe you have a love-hate (or hate-hate) relationship with our unofficial season.
And maybe, just maybe, you already know the lesson I began to learn those many years ago.
Mud season is inevitable. It will grab you. It will beat you. It will make you look like you’re stupid as a boot, if you let it.
Unless, that is, you’ve got four-wheel drive.
Which I do.
Which leads, not-so-conveniently, to the second lesson I learned, much more recently.
Listen up, chummy. I’m trying to save you some pain here. Repeat after me: Four-wheel drive doesn’t keep you from getting stuck. Owning a four-wheel drive vehicle only assures you of this: When you do get stuck (and you will), you’ll surely be right-and-properly stuck.
Hopefully your mother owns a tow truck.
Unfortunately, mine doesn’t.
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke. His first book, “Evergreens,” a collection of his favorite BDN columns and features, is published by Islandport Press and is available wherever books are sold.