Signs of spring

Spring has definitely sprung here in the South. The signs are everywhere.

The first clue I had that winter definitely is over and spring is here to stay was an abundance of turtles on the road. While driving from my home in Little Rock to Reelfoot Lake week before last, I hit one stretch of road in northwest Tennessee flanked on both sides by big tracts of flooded bottomland. In a stretch that covered just a mile, I counted more than a dozen red-eared turtles crossing from one side of the highway to the other. I see this each year around this time, as the turtles come out of their muddy-bottom winter hideouts and make their way to nesting sites. And there's rarely another serious cold spell after I see the turtles making their trek.

Sign two of spring: bank fishermen. Nearly every hole of water by the roadside from Little Rock to Tiptonville, Tennessee, was being fished by at least one, and sometimes several, folks sitting on the bank with a cane pole or casting rod. Some were sitting in lawn chairs, some on 5-gallon buckets and quite a few had just plopped down in a sunny spot on the ground. Most were casting worms or minnows under a bobber, although occasionally I saw someone casting and retrieving a spinnerbait, crankbait or other lure. They were fishing rivers, ponds, lakes, bayous, ditches and sloughs. Didn't seem to matter. If it was big enough to hold a fish, someone was fishing it. Another sure sign of spring.

Other signs of spring have been evident as well. The mockingbirds are singing, day and night! And other birds, too. The redbuds started blooming this week, and the jonquils, Bradford pears and plums already are losing their flowers. The hillside behind my house is starting to take on a greenish hue as leaf buds start opening and the trees come back to life. The flights of geese so common just a few weeks ago are no longer to be seen, but the trees are crawling with warblers and other songbirds returned from their wintering areas to the south. Spring peepers are peeping, the lawn will soon have to be mowed and the baseball fields are full of kids and their parents morning, afternoon and night.

It's one of my favorite times of year. If you're looking for me this week, chances are I'll be sitting on a 5-gallon bucket on the bank somewhere, trying to catch the first fish of spring. Hope to see you there.