Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

Sandy Griswold. April 9, 1899. [April Days Outdoors.] Omaha Sunday World-Herald 34(191): 23.

Forest, Field and Stream

April days!

In the language of one of our prominent attorneys, I think I may at last with at least a modicum of safety, proclaim:

"Spring has came!"

However, if perverse winds gainsay the authenticity of this proclamation, my readers will accept this for what ought to be, and wait patiently for the opportunity of application.

Naturally the past two or three weeks should have been Mother Nature's housecleaning time. There should not be a tree or shrub but what has had a thorough washing in the drenching vernal rains and swept of their dead, dry leaves by the boisterous winds of March, and now show forth refreshed and invigorated after their long period of inactivity.

April days, indeed?

The cottonwoods along the creek's banks, gnarled and aged, should be proudly displaying their swelling bulbs of slender tendrils, and the maples ready to burst forth in their new spring garments, as dainty and fresh as those tiny green blossoms that are peeping from out the little sheltered nooks on the hillsides. The tangled network of aromatic grapevines,, mingling their tentacular threads with the loftiest bows of elm or ironwood, must shortly put forth their wealth of cream white flowers, while the brook willows, laden with downy catkins, in full rich leafage. The rolling prairie land is out slowly assuming a faint tinge of emerald, but like an exploit in prestidigitation, will shortly be covered with wild flowers, while over head will hang a bright, blue sky, flecked, perhaps, with little dark clouds that will cast shifting shadows upon the rural landscape.

Fed by innumberable little springs and rills, the savage Niobrara, the Long Pine and the Birdwood roar through their beds in the canyons, with a sound not unlike that of the sea, forming a multitude of miniature falls and eddies as they whirl around the boulders and the drift in their midst, where the kaleidoscopic trout lurks and the mink builds his home. In the shallows grows the pungent watercress, wild musk, esculent carrot and Indian lettuce, and on the deep mossy banks flourish what few ferns we have—the shield, the maiden-hair, the lacey five-finger, the sturdy little polypods and yellow-eyes. Down deep by the roots of last year's fronds there appear late in March a mass of fuzzy little brown balls, which unroll as they push their way upward on their slender stems until fully expanded in the humid atmosphere.

April days! Why, already the wild goose has gone clamorously on toward his polaric summer home, and the canvasback and the mallard are preening themselves to follow. The teal will linger in the warm sunshine of cosy inlets for days to come, and soon the tinkling ripple of the yellow leg and the thrilling skeap of the jack snipe will mingle with the chuck and chirp of the black bird and the silvery trill of the swamp sparrow.

Already the flowering wild gooseberry emits its woody odor from the dense roadside thickets, where flourish the prickly blackberry, the graceful elder, sweet-scented azaleas and flannelly hazelnut. Wild ivy runs riot in many places, climbing the trunks of the scrubby oaks, festooning itself from bough to bough, and falling in long streamers or matted curtains from the topmost branches, and tangling itself with the wild grapevines, the clematis and the swelling pokeberry.

Brilliant dragon flies flit zigzag fashion along the course of the stream, and from the adjoining shrubbery comes a medley of bird voices.

The plowman is busy turning the soil. He will be followed by the sower, and then comes fields of tender green, looking in the distance like emerald velvet lawns.

The grassy hillsides will soon be spangled with millions of spring beauties, wild roses, cream-cups, cyclamens, asters and bright little primroses, nestling among their rosette leaves, while in the shadowy runways grow topaz and blue violets or wild pansies, apparently delighting the breeze that blows them all one way.

Later will come great patches of sunflowers, moccasin flowers and fragrant wild mustard, adding vivid color to the universal green, with mullen-stalk, red soreel and wild turnip blossoms, the little round-headed brass buttons and blue flags of the marshes, the yucca, and lupines and soap-weed of the sand hills, and that brief-lived member of the iris family, the pretty azure-eyed grass.

No echo of he busy, musty city disturbs our rural solitudes. The meadow lark, with his beautiful black-starred yellow vest, sends his charming call over the open fields, the robin sings merrily in the maples, the bobolink over the clover pastures, while the frogs pipe industriously all along the lowlands. There goes a cottontail scudding nimbly away to the shelter of yon hedge, and there in the budding branches of that old elm a mother fox squirrel is busying herself.

All these are sights and sounds that must come with our April days, and if they are not with us now, they will be surely before the spring-fevery days of lovely May burst forth upon us. While all may yet look brown and bare, the magic of a week's winds and sunshine may array all in the dainty bridal raiment of early springtime.