Summer kept on after we knew it was time for winter rains. The Chinese elms and the locusts dropped their leaves at the usual time, even though the weather said summer. They always shed when they deem it proper, regardless of the temperature. It seemed as if the sky had forgotten how to make rain, but finally it remembered, and the rains were cold. We thought back wistfully to the winter of the warm rains which happened some years ago. The first rain came on a hot September day and was followed by more rains, and it didn't get cold all that winter. Cows and horses grazed contentedly while the heaviest showers poured on them.
This season was to be different. After that first chilly rain the pasture grass sprouted and grew encouragingly. Suddenly we could believe it was spring, warm and sweet. Though spring is the beloved time of year, we weren't ready for it. We needed more rain, lots of it, to keep grass and wildflowers flourishing. Though we human beings knew that it wasn't really spring, birds and beasts felt differently. Linnets, sparrows, starlings, and meadowlarks sang. We heard the whimpering calls of road runners. Hibernating creatures appeared, liking warmth more than being tucked away in a cold dark place. Lizards scampered everywhere, rosy boas and king snakes appeared, and I saw one horned toad.
Down in the canyon of Carol and Joel, hens enjoyed tasty young grass and started laying. The three emus -- popular around here -- wandered up and down the bank of the creek, having a lovely time.
Carol started a garden, and whenever she wasn't in sight the peacocks flew over the fence and undid her labors. Finally she had to put netting over the top of the whole thing. She planted corn, which I said would not do well as we were sure to have a cold snap soon. I said that corn and sunflowers need warmth and that she ought to plant some sunflowers later, since they are my favorite flowers, and birds love them when they go to seed.
Joel decided that there would be more rain and he'd want to use his tractor. He drove it from where he had left it, too near the barn, to where he planned to oil and grease it. He didn't notice his passenger until he'd gone over a bumpy trail. A hen had chosen the tractor as a good place for nesting, and, a little annoyed by this development, began pushing eggs more firmly under her feathers. Joel put a hand toward her and she gave him a good peck. He decided to let well enough alone! Spring, real or false, had won. The tractor stayed where it was until, later, the chicks hatched and were able to trot around after their mother.
Strange happenings seem to be customary on that ranch. One Thanksgiving Day a turkey gobbler came walking up the driveway. "Just in time for dinner," Carol said, and gave him a lot of leftovers. He became a stuffed turkey, but not in the usual way. Soon he considered the ranch his property, came to the back porch to dine with the cats and dogs, was fond of beating unwary people with his wings, and wandered into the house whenever a door was left ajar. A strutting turkey was an interesting addition to the place that seemed to have enough odd characters anyway. The peacocks like to peer in windows at the people in the house; they also insist on the family's waking up at an early hour. And ducks and geese enjoy the creek. When the ducks took their duckllings for a first swim they were like a flotilla of little ships. While their parents upended themselves to devour what was edible below, the babies circled with interest. They had yet to learn about tasty things beneath the water's surface.
Rains came again, and small frogs in large ponds gave nightly concerts. Red-winged blackbirds swung on the reeds and rushes and added to the music of the day. This time it was really spring. The land warmed and Carol's corn grew. Finally she got around to planting sunflowers.
We agreed that this mixed-up year was great. Two springs are better than one.