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Loving the Month of March

Loving the Month of March
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Welcome to the March 2012 edition of
Jud’s New England Journal, the rather
curious monthly musings of Judson Hale,
the Editor-in-Chief of Yankee Magazine,
published since 1935 in Dublin, New Hampshire.

Loving the Month
of March

Not everyone does. But here’s
why they should

It seems to me that in New England the month of March is an entire season unto itself. No other month is remotely like it and no other region of the country experiences it in exactly the same way.

“What may happen in New England in any month of March,” a Hardwick, Vermont acquaintance told me a while back, “is one of the things which God don’t know. Along with how a jury will decide and a few more things like that.”

Nineteenth-century humorist Josh Billings wrote that New England’s March “derives her pedigree from the Danish verb, ‘Whizz’, which means to blow, to wheeze, to snort, to pitch in endways and crossways, to shake window blinds, to smash barn doors, to scare pigs, to break clothes lines, to make men swear and women balky.”

March is maple syrup month, the landscape changing to include silver pails on thousands of trees along country roads and even on isolated groups of maples in front lawns. March is ‘mud season’ with our dirt roads turning to mud roads and our hard-top roads becoming a roller coaster of frost heaves. The few comparatively smooth stretches of road between heaves are identified by the always misplaced ‘bump’ signs. March is the month that always, without fail, comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Or vice versa.

But above all, March is town meeting month. As the various social levels draw back together behind their own battle lines — as they do in the latter part of February and early March — life actually changes. One notices, for instance, the daily early morning social gatherings around coffeepots at the drugstore, at the general store, at the diner, at the garage, and at the firehouse on Sunday mornings, are much larger than at any other time of the year. More vociferous, too. Some of the liveliest are the all-day beer-sipping and sap-boiling sessions at local sugar houses.

“I don’t know where they’re gonna get the money.”

“Damn fools.”

“It ain’t right.”

“I don’t know what this town is coming to.”

…are among commonly expressed sentiments at each of these gatherings leading up to town meeting.

The late Ben Rice, an apple grower in Peterborough, New Hampshire, and a Yankee Magazine writer and editor for over forty years, once described the outcome of this emotional buildup.

“Town meeting will be about the same as usual,” he once wrote in a little essay entitled ‘March Tonic.’ “But say what you will, it does perk a man up to hear old John rant and spiel out all the figures he’s been working on since last March to show that education costs more ’n it used to and don’t give half as much as it used to.”

“General feeling will be the town is gone to hell and there’s nothing to be done about it. This is the best tonic a man can have in March, and Ma and I will drive home as sweet as doves.”

You know, March is my favorite New England month of the entire year.

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Loving the Month of March

Updated Thursday, March 1st, 2012

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