It's certainly not unusual this year to hear people talking about spring, how early it is and how unusual. It's arrived out here in the country, too, and even though it is early, all the usual spring "signs" are here: the neighbor's cattle are producing calves, and the weeds are prolific in the would-be flower gardens, growing like, well, weeds.

Another sure sign of spring is the potholes in the road. They are already so big we could lose the car in some of them. And it seems they get bigger and more of them every day. The road is such an obstacle course it is almost impossible to miss them. It reminds me of what my grandmother used to say when riding in a car with someone, "It takes a really good driver to hit every hole and bump in the road." She had aches and pains that were jarred by bumps, so she felt every one, and that line was her way of saying the driver had hit too many of them.

The other neighbor's ducks have not returned this spring and hopefully that won't change. These are the ducks that always seemed mad at us, quacking loudly all the way as they waddled home. We just assumed they were angry and scolding us because we never let them stay in our yard. We didn't object to the ducks, per se, but the first time they made themselves at home here, one of the mother ducks built a nest in the middle of the lilac tree, and it wasn't long before first she disappeared and then her eggs did. The only trace was a few eggshells we saw on the driveway. Because we have no dogs, she had no protection from what we assumed were the night-hunting raccoons. After that, we decided it was best if the ducks stayed closer to home and their protective dogs.

A wild turkey clan started using our driveway over the winter to move from the field up on top of the hill to the one across the road. They evidently decided this was a good route, because they seem to have made this a habit. The size of the group varies from six to 16. Some of them have learned a new trick: they wait at the top of the hill while the rest plod on, and then they take off soaring, finally alighting down below on the road, well ahead of their earth-bound buddies. It is an unusual sight, at least for me, because they stay aloft, never moving their wings, for about 200 yards, longer and farther than I have ever seen turkeys fly.

We don't see much of our retarded pheasant in the winter, so it was nice to see - and hear - that he is still around. This is the guy that goes around the house banging on every glass window and door that he can reach. One time he thought he was trapped under the deck and kept squawking and charging at the fence which gets put up in the winter to keep the deer from eating our arbor vitae. He wasn't bright enough to look either to the right or to the left where there was clearly no fence blocking his way. For a while he had a mate hanging around, but I guess he proved to be just a little too weird for her as we haven't seen her for a couple of years. His social life seems pretty non-existent.

This spring, however, Retarded Pheasant has been joined by another odd creature: Stupid Bird. This one earned that name while Spouse Roger was in the hospital and his daughter was here. Every day when we would come home from the hospital, and in the mornings before we left, the peace and quiet were intruded upon by an annoying peck, peck, peck at the windows in the living room. Now that we are home most of the time, we have found out that bird can keep it up from dawn to dusk, with very few breaks. At least once he had a twig in his mouth at the same time he was flying against the windows; we wondered if he is trying to build a nest on the outside windowsill.

Spouse Roger got tired of the constant irritation and started throwing a soft foam ball at the window. It made just enough noise to temporarily chase him away, but after a few times he jut moved to a window on a different side of the living room. Now he moves at will from window to window, always choosing the highest ones which, of course, are also the hardest to both hit with a ball and get to with a ladder.

The first year that a friend and I owned a building "on the Avenue" in Lanesboro, a bird had tried to build a nest right over the front door. Someone advised us to coat that ledge with Vicks vapor-rub, which we did. It seemed to work, because we never had a bird problem again. We did get a lot of laughs when we were rubbing that Vicks all over the place, and also while the smell lingered on. However, these windows in our living room are way too high to use the Vicks remedy. And there is really no ledge on the outside on which a nest could be built.

This is really a dumb bird, more persistent even than Retarded Pheasant. He has been at these windows for over two weeks now, so he is obviously a very slow learner. We're wondering if spring in the air has turned his thoughts a little upside-down, sort of an avian version of spring fever, and if so, maybe his "problem" will go away. In the meantime, he must be good company for Retarded Pheasant.