I hate February.
It wasn’t even February yet when I had my latest reminder, although the scurvy, splintered, spindly, slimy Month of Gloom loomed ominously omnipresent across the calendar and anything else it could leak onto, creeping like a foetid mold that no Clorox can clean, a mold so foetid that the modern spelling of the word “fetid” doesn’t cover it.
That reminder came one morning as I nursed a cup of coffee, the last I could have until on the way to work, since both Miss Rhonda and I had miscalculated how much was in the cupboard.
Archibald the half-grown cat was recovering from a nasty bout of RSV. He likes sitting on my shoulder and purring. This time, however, he was sitting on my lap when he looked me squarely in the eye and sneezed.
If you have ever had a sick kitten, you know what materializes when they sneeze. In this case, it landed in my coffee.
I don’t blame the kitten – I blame the onset of February.
February is the mullet-headed menthol-smoking cousin no one is sure is actually kin, the cousin who eats at the family reunion buffet counter, takes a triple-serving of the last of the best banana pudding, and says inappropriate things to the daughters and granddaughters who have just turned 18 whilst hitting on their moms — when he isn’t one-upping everyone else’s hunting, fishing or surgery stories. He probably owes everybody five bucks, too.
As always, I must offer a caveat – February has some good points. There are birthdays of people who are special to me, both blood kin and chosen family. There’s Valentine’s Day, a holiday I actually like. And of course, then there’s…
No. Wait. That’s all.
I despise February.
February marks the end of most hunting, and I usually don’t hunt this close to baby season, anyway, not wanting to damage next year’s harvest. The exception would be feral hogs, but they only come out at night by this time of the year, and I always have to work the next morning.
One can still trap, of course, but the coyotes that remain are trap-smart, winter-poor and sometimes sickly, and usually ain’t worth skinning. Otters and beaver have long since lost their prime fur, since February is the Starving Moon, when everything is hungry and puny, including me.
My beloved catfish have gone deep and slow, and while the big bass often move into shallow water in February, it’s because they’re guarding their eggs and their young from their cannibalistic kinry. Pickerel, crappie and other panfish can be found here and there, but the saltwater fish have wisely departed for warmer waters. One can enjoy a bit of frozen-nosed, numb-fingered fishing in February without mosquitoes, but it’s almost not worth it.
Hence, with my favorite outdoor activities largely on hiatus, I end up grumbling like an old man whose wife is considering how much vanilla extract is needed to cover up the taste of ant poison.
And it’s all because of February.
As I have mentioned before, I once started a February morning by losing my girlfriend, then my job, then getting into not one but two car wrecks — all in the same day, over the course of about seven hours, during a series of tornadoes. I was 23, however, and didn’t quite yet understand the malevolent madness of the month before March.
I enjoy sitting outside in my front yard, contemplating the meaning and purpose of life while a nice fire blazes merrily in the firepit. However, February is always either too windy or too wet, so I am trapped inside, grousing and growling because the television is full of the Grammy awards, Taylor Swift or football, and sometimes all three, intertwined like a sentence that is far too complex because it has become as confused and tangled as a self-pollinating pestilential combination of kudzu, poison ivy and witchweed. Just about the time I think I will have a nice enough day to safely light my ever-growing pile of storm detritus, it pours rain, or the wind is the equivalent of a low-level hurricane, without all the pleasant parts of said tropical storm.
I loathe February.
February is a bad-tempered, long-horned, demon-possessed goat with a shrill offkey bray and a taste for shattering car windows. February is a chestnut mare with steel-shod teeth who will take the cookie from your hand, then take your hand with the cookie. February smells of angry tomcats, sick skunks, burning plastic, leaking radiator coolant, scorched transmission fluid, sour egg salad, slow Internet, and sweaty sauerkraut.
I love winter weather; give me a string of 40 degree days and 20-degree nights, and I am in my element as an outdoorsman. I will frolic in the snow like a child. I love the beauty of a sunrise on a frozen morning, and the blue-silver glory of a snow-covered field in the moonlight.
But what do we get in February?
We get rain. Usually cold rain, and occasionally ice.
Sometimes we get cold rain that can’t decide if it will become ice, so it’s just an indecisive slush of misery, despair and shame that makes people who shouldn’t drive to begin with get behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Oh, February, how I hate you. Let me count the ways. Thankfully, you are a short month.
Someday soon, after four millennium-long weeks, February will give a last gasp and spew its last splashes of hatred as it drifts away into oblivion.
The daffodils and jonquils, having sent out their scouts, will rise in full force, bringing bright yellow and soft gold-white flowers of celebration to ditch banks and forgotten farmhouses.
The birds won’t be able to return to my poor old crabapple tree this year, courtesy of a storm that had February in its dark demented soul, but the feeders will be hung elsewhere, welcoming the cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, grosbeaks, finches and mockingbirds in need of an easy meal as their natural eateries blossom and burst forth with seeds and the bugs who love them.
My lizards won’t be brown and mummified as they have looked for months, since the days will be longer and infinitesimally warmer, and they’ll turn bright green and skitter across the fence posts, the males occasionally blowing up their air sacks as a proof of why they should be chosen as a better mate.
The earliest squirrel babies will begin peeping from the hole in the one of our swamp trees, while their older siblings and parents chitter and chatter and gather the mornings away. One of our resident possums will likely come to visit, either with her pouch full of blind pinks or her back covered in writhing toddlers, looking like nothing more than a marsupial illustration of the Johnny Cash song, Worried Man.
February will either quietly melt into memory, or go down kicking and screaming and fighting as March steps in with promises of warmer mornings, gentler rains, and the healing touch of a friendly sun. Then will come the romance of April’s spring kisses, and February will be nothing more than a dark time best forgotten.
But first, we must battle through the repugnant, repulsive, revolting, spavined, sore-footed, sobsister, sawed-off, worm-ridden, worry-inducing, wart-covered, malignant, messy, mealy-mouthed, malevolent month that is February.
In case I neglected to mention it, I do not like February.