Ahh, it’s good to be under the old elm again in the woods by the Red River. A bright sun helps to warm my hands as I sit here in my woolly chair. A cool south wind reminds me that I am not far removed from winter.
I am pushing the season some. Not a bud is bursting yet on any tree or plant in the woods. The white-tan of last year’s tall brome grass shines brightly enough to make me squint as I look at it. Nowhere is the woods shine softened by the soft greens of its new growth. Everything about me suggests a woods in waiting.
I am permitted this early entry into a waiting woods by an almost waterless end of winter and early spring. The river is completely free of ice, and the level of it on its banks looks like mid-summer. There has been no flooding of the riparian area along the river. So in the place where I am sitting, in some spring seasons, I would be up to my eyeballs in flood waters and floating ice; but this spring season it is dry as a bone.
A few days ago I saw the last of the river ice floating by on its trip north. Today it is completely gone.
There’s a sight! A drake and hen mallard have just passed across my line of vision about 50 feet above the river. We do have a few mallards that hang around here over the winter, but some migration of game birds through this area has begun, so they could be migrant visitors just up from the south. Welcome, friends! You are a good sight to see.
We have begun to see flocks of Canada geese passing over us daily. Yesterday one flock topped 60 birds in formation, spread out in a long arc east of us. What an event!
Gray squirrel has just taken it upon himself to set up a ruckus scolding me from the giant prairie willow tree to my left. I’d been here for a while, so he must have just discovered me and is challenging my right to be in his domain.
He rewards me with a brief silence, and now he has ensconced himself in the elm above me, and has taken up his tirade again. He definitely has an attitude. I’ll be lucky if he doesn’t start pelting me with acorns from the nearby white oak tree. But I’m enjoying it all. It is fun to see the river woods alive again.
James Alger, who lives in Fargo, N.D., has been a summer resident of the Leech Lake area with his family for over 45 years. Over that time he has grown to love and appreciate the people and the woodlands of this area.