Muck Ado About Nothing
Come to New Hampshire in the spring — It’s not just about the leaves
Illustration by Mike Driscoll
Every fall, New Hampshire is overrun with people from away who come to look at the foliage because, apparently, they don’t have trees in their own back yards. This is fine with us — even though they clog our roads and can’t park worth a darn, they spend a lot of money and that helps us make it through another winter.
By late spring, though, the municipal coffers are nearly empty (not to mention cold and a little damp). In the town of Frost Heaves, we’re trying to promote springtime — specifically, Mud Season — as another tourist draw like foliage season.
First, we teamed up with Eldercoach Bus Lines to offer a Mud Peeper tour called “Sedimental Journey.” It’s an exhilarating slog through our muddiest back roads, including Washout Lane, Shouldergone Road and Axlebust Way, ending up at Homer Andrews’ dairy farm to “ooh” and “ahh” at his manure-rich muck. One lady who took the tour last year said, “It was OK. But to be honest, it was our second choice — the casino trip was already filled up.”
Mud season is already a major sporting event for many Granite State guys. (Don’t ask me why a man who spends most of his free time washing his truck can’t wait to get out on a water-logged dirt road and see how much mud he can kick up. And when he gets stuck? That’s like winning some sort of prize.)
Anyway, we have turned this tradition into the Muddy Road Rally, and visitors are welcome to participate for a nominal fee (from the Latin nōminālis, meaning “inflated”). Participants get extra points if they locate any of last year’s drivers, several of whom have not been seen since they left the starting line.
For the artsy crowd, the Frost Heaves High Steppers perform an original dance composition called “Stuck!” It’s kind of like Riverdance, only slower — especially if we get a late freeze.
Then there’s the Senior Mud Wrestling competition, in which local octogenarians strip down and tangle in the topsoil for coveted prizes such as phone calls from their children. (Note: This activity is not for the faint of heart. The viewers, that is.)
Up to the Bluebell diner, they’re serving pancakes and waffles with “maple mud” — Grade D maple syrup (“May contain leaf and stick fragments”). The Peabody Inn has mud-themed activities for guests, such as Bobbing for Boots, which involves sticking your arm into a big tub of mud for prizes like a used pair of galoshes, hubcaps or a nearly new muffler. Afterwards, warm up in the inn’s tavern with a new drink created just for the season, a combination of coffee liqueur and cider vinegar into which they drop an Alka Seltzer just before serving. It’s called “Mud in Your Eye.”
We’re working on a catchy slogan as part of the Mud Season promotional effort, something like “Get Stuck with Us,” or maybe “This Mud’s for You.” So come to New Hampshire in the spring and enjoy our scenic — if somewhat sloppy — natural beauty. Be sure to bring your camera and lots of cash.
Fred Marple, also known as humorist Ken Sheldon, is the author of “Welcome to Frost Heaves,” a collection of semi-true tales, rumors and outright lies from the most under-appreciated town in New Hampshire.