This story was originally published in March of 2019.
Over the next several weeks, folks across the state — especially those who live in rural areas where unpaved roads are plentiful — will find themselves dealing with one of Maine’s least-glamorous times of year: mud season.
And while I often write about the activities that come directly before mud season (ice fishing, for instance) and after (open-water fishing, turkey hunting), I’ve not found many folks who truly embrace that time of year.
Am I missing something? We Mainers are a hardy lot, and we find ways to enjoy most any time of year. Even when we’re freezing our snouts off, we’ll bundle up, head to a mountain and careen down the slope, avoiding trees (and frostbite) along the way. When it’s windy and rainy, we go to the seashore and watch Mother Nature wreak havoc.
And when it’s muddy and sloppy, what do we do?
Honestly, I’m not altogether sure what our standard recreational activities are for a typical mud season.
Well, let me clarify. Nowadays, I don’t. But when I was a lot younger? Oh, I had a pretty good idea what to do when it got good and mucky out there.
Not that my mom was a big fan of my recreational endeavors, mind you.
You see, when I was a kid, we had a pretty good-sized garden behind the house. Though I always felt that I was on my own back there, the kitchen window looked out over the garden, and my mom often had a wary eye pointed in my direction when I would head out for what became near-annual excursions.
Picture a 7- or 8- or 9-year-old kid standing on the lawn, looking at the impressive expanse of mud. Checking it out. Wondering: If I start running from way back there, can I build up enough speed to make it all the way through the mud before I become hopelessly mired?
Each year, I wondered. Each year, I tried. Man, did I try.
And each year, I learned the answer, after four or five frantic steps: No. You are not fast enough. The garden is too big. You. Are. Stuck.
Then, having watched the entire episode out the kitchen window, my frustrated mom would trudge down the slope, haul me out of the mud, and advise me to lay off such foolishness. And I’d do that, for roughly 365 days, or until mud season arrived anew.
Man, kids nowadays don’t know how much they’re missing.
Or, my mom would probably tell me, maybe they’re just not as foolish as I was.
And I wasn’t alone. I remember a cousin once trying to one-up me by trying to ride his bike through the garden’s muck. He made it about twice as far as I had before his bike became mired, after which he performed a nifty dismount (bike remaining completely upright in the mud) and wallowed ashore.
And before you dismiss our hijinks as an example of what happens when a pack of not-super-swift rural dumb-dumbs end up with too much idle time, I’ll point out that my cousin is actually a prominent university president.
Or, perhaps that just sheds more light on higher education in America than I intended.
Either way, for the next few weeks, I’m going to be looking for some cool outdoorsy things to write about. And as I’ve illustrated, I don’t have a super-full slate of activities to tap into during that time period.
So tell me this: What do you do to have fun outside during mud season? Or, perhaps here’s a better writing prompt for you: What kind of memorable mud season mishaps do you remember best? Tell me a story. Photos would be great, too.
And who knows? If we end up with a few doozies, I might share them with BDN readers in a future piece.
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke.