The March Winds Doth Blow
By Bill Shepard
It is here again, the breezy month of March is back. So far, it’s as gentle as a lamb! The calendar will soon be announcing the first day of spring, and I can hardly wait! I find the following words appropriate:
“For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.” Song of Solomon 2:12
There is an old saying that I’ve remembered for as long as I have remembered anything, and it goes like this: “If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb.” I suppose that the opposite would be that if it enters like a lamb, it would leave like a lion. True, or not, that is the way I heard it!
I have seen the wheel of seasons turn many times. I have watched the cold winters give way to the warm sunshine of spring, and I have observed spring fade into the hot sultry days of summer. One season follows another; each in its own way, comes and goes, leaving behind memories of its having been. Some are so deeply embedded that they remain for a lifetime.
I never feel the biting winds of March blow across my face that I do not remember. There is something about its chilly breath that stirs something inside of me, and calls me back to my early childhood; there I see faces and places, and I remember.
When I listen to the mournful sound of March winds, chasing echoes of itself through the treetops, I remember! When I step outside and feel its icy arms wrap around me, I remember! When I lie at night listening to its mournful cry as it whips around the corners of my dwelling place, I remember! Yes, I remember! I remember the good moments and those that were not so good; they are all buried deeply in the recesses of my mind.
When the March winds blow, they draw open the shades of my mind, and I see – I see open fields and pasture lands where as a boy, I met with other children of the village to run and play, and sail our homemade kites. I remember the long hours spent in competition, seeing who could send their paper birds into the farthest blue yonder. Ah, what memories!
At the end of a long day, all tired out from the day’s activities, I would lie on my bed at night and listen to the howling winds chase around the corners of the small house. And there in the darkness, buried underneath the heavy covers, I would see again the faces of those who had stood, shivering against the cold wind, while holding on to the string that held a kit at the other end. Yes, I remember!
I remember the fields of tall sage grass, called “broom straw,” waving to the rhythm of the winds. How good it would feel to bury my lean and thin body deeply inside its walls and feel protected from the blustery winds that whistled overhead. How good it would feel, lying and soaking up the warmth of the bright sunshine, while watching the fluffy white clouds form into images at my mind’s command. Yes, I remember!
And I remember the first daffodils that would appear along the edges of the yard where I spent my early childhood years. They were faithful to appear each March at the very place where Mama had planted them years before. And I remember vacant lots where houses once stood, but now children met to play marbles. Marble season began in March, and would continue until the warmer days of summer would beckon the boys to other interests – fishing, swimming, and cotton picking.
I remember also the ugly fires of March! I have relived them for nearly as many years as I have lived. They reappear when March winds blow; and remembering, I shiver. I recall the nights when I would awaken to the sound of running feet, loud voices, and the firing of shotguns into the dark night – all in an effort to alarm the villagers that a village house was burning. When a house began to burn, the best one could hope for was to escape outside with what little belongings they could grab on the way out. There were no fire hydrants, nor water, except that which could be drawn from a spigot located on a back porch. There were no telephones on the village by which to notify the fire department, and what good would it do anyway? If it came, it only had the water that it brought.
I recall people gathering on their housetops, pouring water from bucket that were passed along to them, as an effort to prevent fires from starting from sparks carried by the wind.
One might ask, “Why in March?” Primarily it was because of the strong winds that blew. All of the villagers heated their houses with fires built in an open fireplace. When the fire was poked, or disturbed for whatever reason, the sparks from the burning wood went up the chimney and would be carried by the wind to a rooftop. The dry cypress shingles used for roofing were tinderboxes waiting to be ignited. Once the burning began, the strong wind would fan the flame, turning the entire roof into a burning inferno. Within moments, there would be nothing left standing but the chimney. When the ashes cooled, men would gather and push the chimney down. In time, the vacant lot would grow over and the folk who had lived there would move on. To my knowledge, the Mill Company never replaced a house that burned.
Even to this day, I could return to the old place and point to vacant lots where I stood as a small boy and watched the scenes that I have described here.
So, the March winds blow…but the times haven’t changed. I no longer sail kites, shoot marbles, nor lie in the sage grass and form images of the clouds overhead, but I remember! And I thank God that I do.
Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C. He is the author of “Mill Town Boy” and “Bruised”. He has been sharing his tales of growing up in Darlington for decades, and we are delighted to share them each week.
His mailing address for cards and letters is: Bill Shepard 324 Sunny Lane, Piedmont, S.C., 29673