Skippy’s chokecherries – March is Saskatchewan winter’s cruelest month

In the old Dick and Jane primary school readers of yesteryear, there’s one chapter that still stands out clearly in my fast-declining memory.
The chapter was entitled, ‘The Months of the Year.’ In that chapter, each month had its own page and a richly-coloured illustration of Dick and Jane, their kid sister Baby Sally, their dog Spot and their cat Puff engaged in a month-appropriate activity.
In January, they’re pictured careening happily down a hill on a toboggan. In February, they’re merrily engaged in building a snow fort.
In April, they’re holding umbrellas and in May they’re picking flowers. June, July and August are all about swimming at the beach, playing baseball and camping. In September, October and November they’re digging potatoes and raking leaves and eating turkey. In December they’re opening Christmas presents.
All those illustrations made sense to me back when I was in Grade 2.
I could relate.
But I had a real problem with the picture in the book for the month of March. It was an illustration of Dick, wearing nothing but a regular shirt and a pair of shorts, standing in a green meadow blissfully flying a kite.
A kite? In March?
In the picture, Dick wasn’t wearing a parka.
Nor did he have on a toque, mitts, or big honking galoshes.
No sir, not even a light spring squall jacket. Just bare hands and regular street shoes.
I remember this page because that particular reading lesson back in Grade 2 was during March, 1962. I recall looking at the picture of Dick in his sissy-pants shorts flying his dumb kite in a sun-dappled field.
And then I looked out the classroom window at the heavy curtain of swirling snow blotting out the houses across the street, and the drifts piling up against the cold brick wall of the school.
I remember thinking, “how gullible do they think us kids are, anyway?”
The people who wrote that book must have lived someplace a long way away, because clearly they had no idea what March in Saskatoon was really like.
I’d only had a few years experience under my belt at the time, but I knew well enough that March is still very much a winter month. And not just a regular winter month, either. It was the cruelest winter month, because it came at the tail end of the longest season of the year and stretched it out even further. By March, winter’s novelty had definitely worn off.
The other thing that’s so cruel about March is its Jekyll-Hyde personality. Normally it’s bitterly cold and snowy, but once in a while it eases up for a week or so and offers a teasingly-pleasant taste of spring.
A lot of people get sucked in, especially toward the end of the month. They think spring is finally here just because the minor hockey playoffs and the skating club carnivals are over.
But, it’s not.
Not by a long shot.
March may come in like a lamb occasionally, but nine times out of ten it goes out like a lion.
Even with climate change, flying a kite in March around here will likely always remain a Dick and Jane reader fantasy.
And keep in mind, there’s always a blizzard, or at least a sizeable snowfall, right around Easter-time. Don’t take those snow tires off just yet.