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
SPRING FEVER TIME IS HERE AGAIN
"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
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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Update: June 2012