There's an interesting article in the Great Falls Tribune today, actually it's a fictional letter from a fourth grader who just moved here from Virginia. She wants to know why Montana doesn't have a spring season (like Virginia). The response from the Tribune column writer sheds light on Montana's unique spring (I think his sincere answer leaves much to be admired). Although he speaks of Northcentral Montana, all seems to apply to Southwest Montana.

Dear Mr. Newspaperman, I just moved here with my family from northern Virginia. In Washington, D.C., all the cherry trees were full of blossoms before we left.

Doesn't this part of Montana have spring?


Gardenia in the fourth grade

Dear Gardenia,

Yes, there is a springtime in Montana — you just have to look hard for it.

You will need to look beyond the brown grass in your yard, underneath the trash on your neighbor's boulevard, and past the sand and gravel in the street, which the city street sweeper will gobble up in the next few weeks.

Don't worry about the breezes that don't quite feel like the warm ones in the Shenandoah Valley this time of year. The wind still is a bit cool around here.

Perhaps your mother and father should have told you the climate in northcentral Montana can be a bit harsh in April and, yes, the first part of May.

You see, spring is more compact in Great Falls and the surrounding area than it is in, say, Buffalo, N.Y., or St. Louis or Seattle.

We don't spend months enduring spring, with its trickling brooks and blaring sunshine. Some years, spring lasts just weeks.

For people with allergies, that can be a real blessing.

Let's say you lived in Kansas City, Mo., and had to deal for months with blossoms from trees such as crabapple, plum, Canada red cherry, linden, apple and peach, not to mention the scents of lilacs, lilies, azaleas, crocuses, camellias, daffodils and other spring flowers. That can be a real problem for people with allergies. Think of what you can save on Claritin tablets living in Montana.

Plus, springtime around here offers its own mysteries, such as trying to figure out when the last of the snow and ice will melt in backyards facing north. I still had ice in my backyard late last week.

Easter egg hunts are more challenging here, as they are often accompanied by slush or pounding winds.

Animals know the drill, too. Some birds and rodents have ventured outdoors already, but they do so warily, with another snowstorm potentially around the corner.

It's not like Montana is the Arctic, though. It's getting warmer around here, in the 40s and 50s some days. Still, these things take time.

Tell your mom not to plant anything outdoors for a month or two longer, if she wants her precious flowers to survive.

Yes, Gardenia, there is a springtime in Great Falls, which you can expect to begin about May 10, complete with beautiful blossoms, wonderful smells and even lush green grass, if we can muster up a bit of rainfall.

It will be beautiful, just like the poets and the authors wrote about euphorically. That means they were happy.

Yes, we will have spring in Montana. You just need to believe that it will happen.

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