I’m not sure whether it was April 1987 or ‘88, but I’m thinking it was ’87, 30 years ago come April 17, when we had a late snow that dumped more than a foot of the heavy, white stuff on Harmon’s Lick, here in Garrard County.
I do recall in vivid detail that we’d had a very mild March and first two weeks of April that year and that I had numerous plants in my garden already as far along, growthwise, as they would normally have been in early May.
In those days I was fond of growing broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and a host of salad fixings such as spinach, lettuce, radishes, Swiss chard, etc. I’ve since stopped growing most cole crop vegetables because they are so prone to being wormy and I have never been able to organically control the pests. Loretta is so deathly scared that she will eat a broccoli, cabbage or cauliflower worm that she butchers the heads beyond recognition before they hit the steamer. I’m reasonably sure that I have eaten numerous such worms in my life because I don’t waste a lot of time trying to find them, but that’s another story for another time.
I’m also reasonably sure that I didn’t eat any cole worms in the spring of ‘87 because the big snow destroyed all my plants except for the Brussels sprouts which actually grow much better if all but the top few leaves are stripped off their stalks. And after the snow melted that’s all I had left of anything in the garden — several dozen pale green stalks that only the day before would have made a photograph worthy of the cover for the most expensive seed catalogues or gardening magazines.
My brother Keith “Keeter” was working a job at the time where he literally had to schedule his vacation a year in advance. He and his family, consisting of wife Nancy, two sons younger than 12 and a seven-year-old daughter had long planned and anticipated a week of April fishing and camping. Daughter Tracy would stay at our place with Loretta and our kids while I went on the big outdoor adventure with Keeter, Nancy and the boys.
They all showed up, bass boat in tow, after dark on the evening before our scheduled departure for the campground just over 100 miles away and situated 200 yards or so below Lake Cumberland’s Wolfe Creek Dam.
When we got up to leave the next morning the boat was loaded with at least a ton of the heaviest, wettest snow I have ever experienced that had fallen while we slept and dreamed of livewells teeming with big crappie. Keeter, the boys and I managed to get it mostly unloaded with some fireplace shovels and a steady stream of hot water made possible by running a garden hose through our bathroom window. We figured it would finish wind-drying on the way to the lake.
When you have spent many months looking forward to a fishing trip, knowing full well that you will not have the opportunity again for at least another year, you do not let something as trivial as a blizzard disrupt your plans, especially if you call the bait store located just eight miles up the road from your campground and learn that they only have about four inches of snow there. And, since the campground is sheltered by a forest of towering loblolly pines, cleaning off spots to pitch a couple of tents should be nothing more than the most minor of inconveniencies.
Besides, we figured that sweeping off a little snow would be a small price to pay for all the fat crappie fillets that Nancy would be frying and which we would be devouring three meals per day except for that mid-week supper when we might have grilled steaks if Nancy was willing to run back to Russell Springs to a grocery store.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out quite that well. Two nights of sleeping on snow and eating fried bologna because the crappie were not cooperating proved to be all the “roughing it” we needed. In fact a very small, bait-size bream one of the boys snagged was the only fish boated after two and a half days on dead serious and uncomfortable determination.
I have not started a serious garden before the middle of April since that ill-fated week nor have I done any serious advance planning for an April fishing excursion. I have experienced many, many wonderful April fishing trips since then, but most of them were planned the night before and only after watching the evening weather report or the late Junior Helton called me up before daylight and said, “Get your butt ready. I’ll be over there in 15 minutes. We’re going fishing.”
And remember, The National Association of Wooly Worm Winter Weather Watchers (NAWWWWW) has predicted a big spring snow for central and eastern Kentucky. It hasn’t happened yet and I certainly hope it doesn’t. Brother Andy, Loretta and I would like to soon take a fishing excursion to the same location as this story and we’ll do so on the spur of the moment any day now.