Welcome to the May 2016 edition of Jud’s New England Journal, the rather curious monthly musings of Judson Hale, the Editor-in-Chief of Yankee Magazine, published in Dublin, New Hampshire since 1935. Here in New England, a favorite sign of spring is the sound of peepers (little frogs), pronounced “peepehs” even by those who usually pronounce […]
By Judson D. Hale
May 01 2016
Welcome to the May 2016 edition of Jud’s New England Journal, the rather curious monthly musings of Judson Hale, the Editor-in-Chief of Yankee Magazine, published in Dublin, New Hampshire since 1935.
We discussed “peepehs” and peas several years ago. But people keep asking us to do it again. OK…
For me, a most wonderful sign of spring is the sound of peepers (little frogs), pronounced peepehs here in New England even by those who ordinarily pronounce their r’s.
It goes without saying that to be the first one in your neighborhood to hear the first-of-the-season “peeps” on a spring evening is an honor. The only trouble is that no one is apt to acknowledge anyone else as being the first.
“Heard a few peepehs this evening in the swamp back of my house here in Spofford,” a voice called into WKNE radio in Keene, New Hampshire, one April evening as I was returning home from Vermont, listening to my car radio.
“We have peepehs over here in Westmoreland this evening, too,” another man telephones several minutes later.
“Out here in Acworth,” a woman’s voice came over the air, “We heard peepehs last Sunday.”
The announcer then invited anyone who’d heard peepehs earlier than that to give a call—and some half dozen listeners did. Quite an argument ensued when someone said that the peepehs in his town had been in full swing “for over a week.” Finally, the original caller from Spofford telephoned back to say that the peepehs he was hearing there that evening were the first “group” of peepehs he’d heard that season and that he “thought” he’d heard a “single peepeh” one evening almost two weeks before. At that point, the announcer began to play some music.
During this same time of year, there is a great deal of anguished deliberation over whether or not to plant peas. “In by Patriot’s Day, out by the Fourth of July,” is the old saying. Actually, it doesn’t matter when they are planted just as long as they’re ready to pick by the Fourth of July dinner. That is important. So the decision isn’t taken lightly—and it’s delicate. Plant them too early and the seeds will just rot in the too-cold ground. A late snowstorm—“poor man’s fertilizer”—will not necessarily hurt them. But a lengthy cold, rainy spell will. On the other hand, if one becomes overly cautious and waits too long, there’ll be canned or frozen peas with the salmon that Fourth of July and those cannot ever be passed off as fresh.
So what can we look forward to after the peepehs and fresh garden peas? Well, warm weather, lilacs and lots of nice things. Sure, bugs, too. After all, nothing’s perfect.