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Mud season

03/18/04 12:00AM By Vern Grubinger
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(Host) It may be sugaring time in New England, but commentator Vern Grubinger says that means it's also the more prosaic...mud season.

(Grubinger) The mud was up to my knees, and my old Subaru was in up to its armpits. The four-wheel drive had made a brave attempt, but it just couldn't generate any traction, only splatters and steam.

I'd been hurrying along to some appointment or other, negotiating the bumps and squishes common to unpaved roads this time of year, when suddenly, terra firma, or what was left of it, dissolved into quicksand and the road came up to meet the undercarriage of my car like a big brown suction cup.

So, after a few attempts to power my way out, which only dug me in deeper, I took a deep breath and tried to let go of whatever reason I was in a rush for, since I clearly wasn't going anywhere soon. I picked up the cell phone, humbling myself in advance before a call to neighbors who had a big American truck with enough muscle to yank me out of this quagmire. But although I was just a few miles away from their home, the hills and valleys of southern Vermont thwarted any chance of decent signal.

I sighed, and for a moment, I thought I heard the muds goblins tittering with glee.

Now resigned to very different day than I had planned, I just stood there for little while, taking in the surroundings. It was a beautiful place to be stuck.

The old dirt road was lined on either side with moss covered stone walls that had been pushed aside by majestic old sugar maples. Their moisture-covered limbs glistened like a fantastic crystal sculpture high above me. The sky was clear blue, and the ground was a patchwork of bright white snow among gray-green tree trunks and fallen brown leaves in the woods. The wind blew gently. It was crisp, with a hint of springtime smell. And it was really quiet, except for the singing of birds.

The sound of an engine made me look up. Around the bend came a small Toyota truck, bobbing and weaving in the ruts as it approached. It stopped about 30 feet away, and a local old-timer I know just a little from town meeting got out. He walked about half way toward me, assessing the situation. "Stuck" he said.

It wasn't a question, or even a statement really; more like a summary of the human condition.

"Ayyup" I said, not wanting to spoil the conversation with unnecessary content. A minute or two later he said, "I'm going to visit my daughter down the road. I don't think I can pull you out, but you can make a call from there."
"Thanks," I said.

He didn't move right away, so we both just stood there for another minute, taking in the quiet, the smells, the visual feast. He looked at me with a twinkle in his eye, the hint of a satisfied smile on his face. Then he said, "By golly, it's good to be alive."

With an ear to the ground, this is Vern Grubinger.

Vern Grubinger is the director if the UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture.
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