Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Spring Fever Time is Here Again
Nature Bulletin No. 494   May 18, 1957
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Daniel Ryan, President
Roberts Mann, Conservation Editor
David H. Thompson, Senior Naturalist

"For lo, the winter is past... the flowers appear upon the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land" -- The Song of Solomon (II: 11,12).

This is the time of year when lots of people, young and old, have spring fever. Nowadays it is mostly a state of mind -- not a malady -- which commonly occurs on balmy sunny days in April and May. It is characterized by an "oh, shucks" notion that nothing is very important, and by an almost irresistible urge to play hooky, get out-of-doors, and go fishing or saunter aimlessly along or maybe just lie and bask in the sun.

Back in the horse-and-buggy era, on farms and in small towns of central or southern Illinois and Indiana, "spring fever" was the name for a rundown physical condition naturally resulting from diet deficiencies during the winter months. In those days there were no fast freight deliveries, by refrigerated railroad cars or by airplane, of fresh fruits and green vegetables from Florida, Texas, California and other subtropical regions. We rarely saw an orange, for instance, except at Christmas. From autumn until spring we subsisted mostly on a diet of bread, meat, potatoes and gravy; supplemented by stuff our mothers had canned and by bins full of apples.

There was legitimate reason for a tired listless feeling and no appetite in spring. We knew nothing about vitamins, then, but you can see that some important ones were missing in such a diet. It was commonly believed that, during winter, a person's blood became "thick", sluggish, and loaded with "impurities". Consequently, every spring, we children were obliged to swallow nauseous doses of cod liver oil, sulfur and molasses, or bitter tonics brewed from the leaves and stems, or the seeds, of various plants reputed to be medicinal. Sassafras tea, however, was fragrant and pleasant.

As soon as the wild leek, one of the earliest woodland plants, attained sufficient growth, we were sent to get quantities of it for leek soup and, while gathering the leaves, ate handfuls of them. We had such a craving for green stuff that we also ate tender new blades of grass. Later we gathered pecks of young dandelions, wild mustard and other greens for use in salads and to be cooked with ham or sowbelly.

Some scientists claim that spring is not March, nor April, nor May, Instead, they say it is the time when the nights are getting shorter, the days longer. That is why, they believe, most animals -- mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish -- produce their young and multiply in spring. They suspect that the shortened nights of springtime are also responsible for a change in human attitudes and that special languor which we call "spring fever". The cure for it can always be found some place in our 41,000 acres of forest preserves.

At this time of year the woodlands are carpeted with wildflowers; the trees are blooming and clothing themselves with leaves; the fields and forests are tuneful with the calls and songs of birds; the ponds and sloughs, populated with wild ducks and shorebirds, are clamorous with the "love music" of frogs and toads. If you like to fish, there are plenty of good places for that. Or you may saunter along the trails through woodlands and meadows where you find solitude, peace and relaxation.

As one little boy said: "Every place you look there is something to see."

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