Of puddle jumpers and mud sticks

With each successive day where temperatures hover around the melting point, more and more memories of my childhood are making their way home.
Like the days of black rubbers with the red stripe, used in robust playing fields called puddles. My mother called them “pig boots”—a term I still employ much to the rolling eyes of my own children.
I remember using all my superpowers while wearing my pig boots as I jumped up and down in glee-filled attempts to empty a puddle of water in the yard, hoping (as I’m sure my brother did) that we also would get each other sopping wet.
We lived along Frog Creek, where waters would start low in the spring and then rise with May showers. In those days, I wanted to be a hundred things when I grew up, one of which was a biologist. I investigated everything to do with nature as soon as spring permitted.
I’d venture out along the creek bed in search of treasures. I’d plunk along in my pig boots for about a quarter of a mile and back again, picking up fascinating tidbits like bird feathers, clam shells, and pinchers from crayfish.
The pinchers stood out in deep green or fire red, small, fat, and long, sharp ones that, to a kid like me, were a collector’s item. I stored all these marvels together in an old shoebox under my bed but, like most children with a short attention span, forgot about it for a month or two.
I don’t need to describe the look on my face when my nose got a whiff of that after a long fermentation.
My biology studies travelled far into the summer, when I would sit for hours in the canoe in the middle of the reeds in Frog Creek scooping up water spiders and investigating the world of insects.
It’s a good job West Nile Virus wasn’t prevalent back then.
Gravel roads in the spring also held a child’s delight (and no, our mother did not send us out to play in traffic). There wasn’t much traffic anyway, and if something did go by, it was either a slow-moving gravel truck whose driver was stunned by my brother in a red dress or a herd of cattle being driven to greener pastures.
Melting weather brought a strange phenomenon to gravel roads, where down the middle would appear eruptions of mud. The handles of broken hockey sticks made great tools for exploring these mucky holes and we shoved them down as far as they would go—to the brink of China (or so we believed).
But my favourite memory of spring when I was a child had nothing to do with pig boots, puddles, crayfish, or mud. It came each year in a cardboard crate, for which I waited in my grandparents’ yard with all the patience a kid could muster.
It was all about business to my grandmother, but she knew how much it meant to me to look inside.
And when I did, maaaan, there was nothing that smacked of spring like a sea of warm, yellow, soft-smelling, and noisy baby chicks.

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