The snow went, but never quite all the way. On the north sides of the hills and hidden in the shadows of the softwood stands it lingered for what seemed like eternity. Bare fields waited for the robins and on walks in the woods the dogs searched for woodcock. Early in the mornings and late in the day grouse drummed in the woods above the house.
In a drainage ditch next to a logging road, which leads into an enormous wilderness valley, a woodcock fluttered up in front of the pup’s nose. It was the first of the year and the first of the young dog’s life!
Spring would come after all. On the way home a hundred robins rested in a pasture that hadn’t yet greened. For the next couple weeks the girls would hunt hard.
One day a sudden snow blanketed the garden, then left as fast as it came. Down by the brook, in the murky shade of spruce and firs, frozen puddles refused to leave and refrigerated air. Across the stream a grouse drummed a challenge to the one on the hill. The water was cold and high and trout fishing would wait. At night the coyotes howled.
On a sunny afternoon walk, well up on a hill in a deserted field, a stand of maples no bigger than my wrist beckoned. Coaxing the dogs over, the seven year old wirehair locked up on point where the grass met the young trees. Rushing ahead with her camera, my daughter hoped to spot the woodcock in front of the dog, but the bird spiraled up from beneath her feet, leaving its nest behind. Three eggs waited for her return. The dogs would spend less time in the woods for the next few months.
Now it’s early May. The grouse still drum. Streams are still too cold and a quarter of the way through the month snow mixes with a cold downpour. It’s time to train the pup and get the garden ready for warmer days.