EVEN the die-hards have been accosting me at the grocery store to say "I love winter, but . "
The bottom line is that they love snow and all there is to do with it, on it and in it, but enough is enough. Well, look at the radar screen and the long-term forecast, friends and neighbors. More is on the way.
I'm the wrong guy to look to for succor here. I've always been a glutton for punishment when it comes to winter and snow and the whole way of life, and the last thing grousers want to hear is that this has been the kind of old-fashioned winter we all remember, but it has. The only missing ingredient was that deep snow didn't come early enough.
"Early enough" to some means early enough to insulate the land and bank snow up against foundations. This early season paucity, combined with a lot of wind, chewed people's woodpiles to bits. Of course, some of the complaints here came from people living in houses so poorly insulated that you could throw a cat through the walls. This includes me, in an 1850 farmhouse with uncertain insulation but plenty of firewood.
From an economic standpoint, at least where snow means money, every snowstorm that heaves over the horizon in late March and on into April is money in the piggybank. At this rate, snowmobiling aficionados and cross-country skiers and snowshoers and downhill skiers will be enjoying life atop the white stuff well into April when people around Boston are mowing their lawns.
A headline in Friday's New Hampshire Union Leader caught my eye. "Lots of snow, but no dough for snowmobile trail work."
Some of the snowmobile registration money that goes to the state comes back to snowmobile clubs to help pay for trail grooming, and Chris Gamache of the Bureau of Trails bemoaned the fact that the fund has run out. "You're at the point of increasing expenditures . without increasing revenues coming back in," he said.
This statement came from a narrow state-revenue standpoint, and I know Chris well enough to say that he meant it only in that way, but it overlooks the tremendous economic windfall every extended snow-covered weekend means to local economies, and it overlooks the tremendous efforts snowmobile clubs and their members and sponsors go to extend the season, state money or not. The trails will get groomed, no matter what it takes, in behind-the-scenes efforts that are testimony to how vital snowmobiling is in economically hard-pressed regions.
The flip side of this snow-is-great scenario is what's happening with the deer, which is, in my book, likely to be disaster. Deep snow in late March (and probably on into April) comes when deer are on their last reserves of energy and vulnerable to predators, in the form of coyotes and free-running household dogs.
Winter is the great leveler with the deer population. We can only tinker at the edges by figuring in road-kill and predation and natural attrition and disease and starvation and all the rest, looking at past patterns and first, and always foremost, tailoring mankind's wants - the hunting seasons - to the rest of the mix and what's right for the resource.
In the end, if you really take a hard look at it, all we can control is the hunting. Predation? It's easy to blame coyotes, those ravenous beasts, great gaping jaws dropped, slavering as they cut their way through the ranks. But they belong out there (remember the wolf), and are a natural part of the mix. They have to calculate cost-benefit as they choose when to chase and when to break off.
The free-running dog is not part of the natural mix. It is guaranteed a square meal and a warm bed and can chase with abandon, with no internal governing calculator at play. Aside from the hunting seasons, it is the only single other factor within our control.
Coyotes, you say? Aren't coyotes within our control? No. Coyotes are responsive breeders, meaning that they have more young in response to depredation. They are also uncannily smart. No program, whether involving shooting, poisoning, snaring or trapping, has ever eradicated them, anywhere.
Nor should it, at least to me, if not a coyote lover than at least a coyote understander. The trickster has (perhaps temporarily) occupied the niche we made vacant by our persecution of the wolf. Nature abhors a vacuum, and in the end, Nature always laughs last.
John Harrigan's address: Box 39, Colebrook, NH 03576, or firstname.lastname@example.org.