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Published April 26, 2010, 01:06 PM

Repainting the prairie

TOWNER, N.D. — I remember the first color television we got. Seems like Dad plugged it in on a Friday night and come Saturday morning I was watching full color cartoons in my footed pajamas. Color made for better cartoons than my black and white past, even with those dynamic shades of gray.

By: Ryan Taylor, Special to Agweek

TOWNER, N.D. — I remember the first color television we got. Seems like Dad plugged it in on a Friday night and come Saturday morning I was watching full color cartoons in my footed pajamas. Color made for better cartoons than my black and white past, even with those dynamic shades of gray.

That’s kind of how spring is on the prairie. You go through a winter of white snow and gray skies. The snow melts off and you’re surrounded by a hundred shades of brown.

Then, one fine, spring day, it’s like turning on that color television on Saturday morning. The world goes from black and white and brown to green and purple and blue.

Expanding spectrum

I wait for the green. Every shade of it.

My favorite green comes from the poplar trees that riddle our ranch. If we were better marketers, we’d call them aspen trees, or better yet, quaking aspens. But we’re not marketers, we’re ranchers, so we call those stands of trees plain ol’ popple thickets.

When those poplars pop their leaves in the spring, it’s the brightest limiest green you ever saw. They come just in time to let your eyes know they aren’t color blind after all.

The grazing members of the ranch prefer the green sprouts of grass to the green of the poplar leaves. I know the grass is more valuable than the poplar leaves, but I still go for the leaves.

The first flower in our neighborhood is the prairie crocus. Just a couple inches tall, it keeps a low profile, but its pale purple petals never go unnoticed. A cupful of crocuses on the table will get you through some rough spots with the woman of the house. I guess their eyes need a little spring color, too.

Our 3-year-old picked every crocus he could find this spring to give to his mom. I think he was trying to bank some good will with her to help get him through another week of being a 3-year-old boy.

My favorite blue in the spring comes with feathers instead of leaves and petals. When I see the male bluebird flit across my path, I know we’ve left the gray season. This is a fella who isn’t afraid of having some color in his wardrobe.

The species we have is called a mountain bluebird. We don’t have any mountains, but I am glad we get the bluebirds.

Some birdwatching friends of our family hung up a bunch of bluebird houses in our pastures years ago. Don’t ask me how a bluebird knows the houses were meant for them. I think it has something to do with the size of the front door. Anyway, they work, and it’s added a splash of vibrant blue to our pastures when they return each spring.

Spring fever

There are plenty of reasons to appreciate spring when you’re a Northerner. Some of the reasons come color-coded in poplar green and crocus purple and bluebird blue. And they keep coming into the summer with tiger lily red and coneflower yellow.

Even the blacks and grays and browns look better when they get the color accents that they lack in the winter.

Springtime on the prairie is even better than the Saturday morning I woke up to color cartoons on the new television set. They just can’t make a TV big enough to match the view nature gives us in the country.

I wouldn’t mind still having those footed pajamas I had in my color cartoon watching days, though, for my morning nature viewing.

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