The Nature Writers of Texas

The best nature writing from the newspaper, magazine, blog and book authors of the Lone Star State . . .

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Greening Mesquites Are Our Most Reliable Spring Herald
by Ro Wauer

Tomorrow, March 20, is the first day of spring, a time of fresh growth and renewing spirit. Spring is my favorite time of year. Spring birdsong is a marvelous experience that never grows old. A few years ago, just for the fun of it, I asked a number of friends all across Texas, what they considered their personal herald of spring. I latter wrote up a couple dozen of those responses in a book, "Heralds of Spring in Texas," that was published by Texas A&M University Press. Those spring heralds ranged from returning purple martins and scissor-tailed flycatchers along the central Gulf Coast, yellow-throated warblers in the Pineywoods, and black-capped vireos and golden-cheeked warblers in the Hill Country. Turkey vultures Big Bend bluebonnets were part of early spring in West Texas. Further north, spring heralds included flowering trout lilies and elbowbushes. In the Panhandle, the songs of western meadowlarks signified the arrival of spring.

When discussing this topic with Lorie Black of Abilene, she told me about a most pertinent poem that appeared in the Abilene Reporter-News on March 21, 1996. Then she sent me a copy. Apparently, each year since 1939, this poem, written by Frank Grimes (editor of that paper from 1919 to 1961) is republished. I have also used it in previous Nature Notes, but it is worth repeating once again.

Old Mesquites Ain't Out
We see some signs of returning spring,
The redbirds back and the fie,larks sing,
The grounds plowed up and the creeks run clear.
The onions sprout and the rosebuds near;
And yet they's a point worth thinkin' about -
We note that the old mesquite ain't out!

The fancier trees are in full bloom.
The grass is green and the willows bloom,
The colts kick up and the calves bend down,
And springs a-pear-ently come to town;
And yet they's a point worth thinking about -
We note that the old mesquites ain't out!

Well, it may be spring for all we know,
There ain't no ice and there ain't no snow.
It looks like spring and it smells so, too.
The calendar says it plenty true -
And still they's a point worth thinkin' about -
We note that the old mesquites ain't out!

And so it is! In spite of our returning scissor-tails and all the fresh growth, including flower Texas bluebonnets and huisache, spring in Texas really never happens until the mesquites produce green leaves.

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