By Bill Shepard
As I write, the calendar on the wall nearby is reminding me that we are halfway through the month of February. It has been more than two weeks since that furry little creature known as the groundhog supposedly peeked out of his hiding place, saw his shadow, and went back into hiding. Before doing so, he made the prediction that we would have six more weeks of winter weather. If my arithmetic is correct, we have four more weeks of waiting. Then comes Spring! That blessed time when all the world seems to take on new life! Of course, old man winter is a hard loser, and will fight to hang around for as long as he can. Through the calendar says it is time to go, he refuses. As much as we might not like it, it often happens for our own good! Too many warm days, like some we have recently experienced, can mean disaster for the fruit bearing trees. In my area of the upstate, the peach crop is especially threatened by warm days that come too early. After a few spring-like days recently, I took a stroll among my blueberries just to see what was happening. The limbs of the trees showed a swelling that said to me, they were ready to put on buds. As much as you and I might not like the next four weeks of cold weather, let’s remember there are some that need it! The peach growers in this area are praying for it!
I recall a late February day in a time long ago that some friends and I decided to see what the weather was like in Florida in February. We were off; the year was 1960. The farther south we rode, the warmer it became. In south Florida, the fields were alive with workers, harvesting and working among the vegetables that were growing. Along the roadsides, the flowers were blooming, and along the waterfronts the people were fishing, and some were bathing. I said to my friends, “Why would a person live in Piedmont, when he could live in a place like this?” I made up my mind that I would move to Florida. And I did! The next year I moved to the “land of sunshine” and spent the next forty years there. I enjoyed the change, but I could never break loose from the place I left behind.
Yes, I missed the snows of winter, the colorful falls when the trees display their rainbow of colors. I missed the cooling winds and cool night of September and early October. I missed the smell of wood-smoke curling from the chimneys and hanging low over the housetops. I missed the sound of frozen sleet and rain pelting against my windowpanes. The memories of people, places, and times never turned loose, they were always calling me back to the place of my roots. It is strange how familiarity of things about us often numbs us to their presence in our lives.
So, here I sit, all those many years later back at the beginning. It is February, and I am experiencing it all over again. I cannot run, so I will wait for springtime to come to me.
February may be short on days, but for me it is long on memories!
Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C. Signed copies of Mr. Shepard’s books “Mill Town Boy” and “Bruised” are available for purchase at the News and Press office. He has been sharing his tales of growing up in Darlington for decades, and we are delighted to share them each week.