PAT NEAL: Going down the sucker hole

IT WAS GOING to be one of those days.

I remember it like it was yesterday, because maybe it was. It all started with a bright light in the eastern horizon that grew stronger and brighter with each passing minute, until it was impossible to look at. Oddly enough, the air started to get warmer as the brilliant orb gained altitude and burned through the early morning mist.

Being seriously disturbed, I would have dialed 9-1-1 if I could only have remembered the number.

“It’s the sun,” my fancy friend said.

I knew that, but it had been raining for so long I’d forgotten what the sun looked like.

Every winter along about this time, it seems as if the sun comes out. Causing some of the more sensitive types to declare that winter is over. It’s not.

This is what we call a sucker hole, designed to make you think we can avoid the coming long months of interminable precipitation. Causing the locals to panic with the mistaken notion that spring time is near. No. It is only a short cessation of the atmospheric river lulling us into a cozy deception that winter is over.

Creatures great and small show themselves in the unseasonably warm weather, which some optimistically delusional humans mistake for spring.

Sighting the first baby slug of the year is not an experience that warms the cockles of a gardener’s heart, but there it was. Alive and well, and feasting on the skeletal remains of a ravaged strawberry plant poking out of the soggy earth. The baby slug was about the size of a double-aught buckshot and just as cute. I was so overcome with emotion at seeing the little devil, I wanted to soak the garden with gasoline, fire up the blow torch and cook the first couple inches of soil, then start over with a whole new crop of slugs.

Things could be worse. I found that out a few minutes later.

There was a loud buzzing sound in my ear followed by a painful burning sensation that marked the appearance of the first mosquito of the new year.

The dramatic appearance of the first mosquito of the year has never been a cause for celebration. With global warming and enhanced evolutionary processes possibly accelerated with increased industrial pollution, our mosquitoes seem to be getting larger with each passing year. The one I saw was big enough to be considered a small bird, although it was a little too small for the shotgun. A .22 rifle with birdshot might be just the ticket for dealing with this new breed of super mosquitoes.

This year’s bug season is bound to be the worst ever — raising fears that these biting pests will soon be able to drain the bodily fluids from their human victims in a matter of minutes. You’ll want to stock up on my all-new pine-tar and lavender bug repellent before you hit the backwoods this summer.

This unique formula is guaranteed to stop the hungriest bugs in their tracks, as long as you do your part and don’t bathe between applications. Allow this new and improved mosquito repellent to form a hard glaze, which, after a few weeks, will form an armor coating on your hide that no mosquito can penetrate.

So, enjoy the winter sun if you must, but just remember — when we inevitably return to another round of rain and wind, you can rest assured that we will be safe from the slugs and bugs, secure in the knowledge that spring is a long ways off.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via [email protected].

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