Love is in the air in the skunk world as the animals come out of hibernation and search for a mate.

It is the Moon of the Polecat.

Last night, the new moon brought us into the final phase of winter. Spring is almost here.

During the Moon of the Polecat, the skunks come out of hibernation and began traveling in search of a mate. A few of these animals have already emerged from their dens, and I began seeing them dead on the road about a week ago.

When the skunks start traveling, winter is just about gone. Mark my words. Spring is just around the corner.

It seems that we all misread the signs this year. All that snow that forecasters, almanacs —and I—predicted is just not going to materialize. Yes, we have had plenty of moisture, but the cold air just wouldn’t cooperate.

So far, this winter has been just about average, with 12–15 inches of snow and two or three cold snaps. It has been a bust for snow lovers.

This has been a winter of mud, not snow. The lane into my house becomes a quagmire every time the temperature gets above freezing. The ground has no bottom and it gets worse with every rain.

I passed a farmer friend’s pasture field the other day and the ground where he has been feeding hay is torn up. A tractor with a 1,500-pound roll of hay cuts deep into a clay hillside.

It is even worse with the blackjack land east of here. The back wheels of almost any vehicle push down all the way to the shallow rock. It is a real mess.

As I said, winter is about over. There is no indication whatsoever of any major snowstorms in the 15-day forecast (if you can put any faith in them). That brings us to the brink of March and, by then, the sun has risen much higher in the sky and has more warmth.

While the long-range forecast shows no sign of a big snowstorm, it does give us plenty of chances for rain. This year is starting out like 2018. It just won’t stop raining.

If you’re tired of winter—and I think most of us are—there is light at the end of the tunnel. Pitchers and catchers report to Major League Baseball spring training camps in just over two weeks and the ACC basketball tournament is about a month away.

If the weather cooperates—and that is a big if—gardeners could be planting early crops (peas, onions, potatoes) by the end of this month. And Daylight Saving Time goes into effect in early March. In other words, in a month’s time, we with have about an hour and a half more daylight each afternoon. After a long, dark winter, that is something to really make us feel better.

As we look ahead, let us also look back for a few moments. As always, January is a tough month on old people, and I have lost a number of good friends in the past 30 days.

Statistics bear out the fact that more people die in January than any other month. Somehow, old people force themselves to get through the Christmas holiday only to see their will to live diminish in January. I’m sure this goes back to the caveman era, when harsh weather conditions took their toll on the sick and weak.

Well, January is gone, the days are getting longer and hope is being restored.

Spring can help cure any number of ailments. There have been a couple of rough viruses going around this winter and some people I know have been half sick for two months. Sometimes it takes only the warmth of the spring sun to assist with the final cure.

It is the same with injuries. The cold, damp weather of winter can make bones and joints ache and some injuries just refuse to heal until warm weather arrives. The power of nature can be very instrumental in the healing process.

Well, cheer up. If you’re reading this, you obviously survived January and now spring is just a few weeks away. Pretty soon, the mud will bake into clay bricks and everyone will be complaining about the heat.

Meanwhile, the polecats are starting to get active and, as with Pepe Le Pew, love is in the air in the skunk world. For three months, we have been watching for deer on the highways, but now it is time to start looking out for skunks.

This is, of course, one of my favorite times of the year because there is nothing more invigorating than breathing in the strong scent of skunk. Talk about opening up your sinuses!

So enjoy the Moon of the Polecat. It is a sign that spring is just around the corner.

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Donnie Johnston:

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