Mud balls

Mud balls

This post is contributed by Coastal Rivers Trustee Barnaby Porter. Read the previous post here.

Editor’s note: This gem is one of many from Barnaby’s archive.

Reviewing the winter now coming to a close, it seems fairly safe to judge it unusual, quite unusual. A winter with no snow, with no cold weather to speak of, could on the surface be taken as a gift if it didn’t put you on edge. Where’s the hitch? A return to normalcy would be reassuring.

A good old-fashioned spring might do the trick. But that would have to start with mud – soft, squishy, brown mud – and most folks aren’t so keen on mud season. To tell the truth, it’s a wonder I’m not less keen on it myself, considering it almost got me thrown into jail once, at age 5.

I was sitting on a sunny bank by the side of the street with my best friend, Chickie. It was early spring, and we were bored – nothing to do. You know how it is; five is such a difficult age – lots of energy, but a backlog of only five years’ worth of good ideas, and no judgment. Chickie and I were bored stiff.

footprints and tracks in mud

As we sat there digging our heels into the soft bank, we watched the world go by in early 50’s automobiles. It was a dreary, going-nowhere occupation. I can imagine our conversation.

“Whaddya wanna do?”

“I don’t know.”

“Wanna to go over your house?”


…A pause, as we both stared absentmindedly down between our knees at the ground.

“Hey! Let’s make mud balls!” (A bright idea.)

“Okay!” (A bright idea seconded.)

And so, Chickie and I made mud balls. And what else does one do with mud balls… but throw them? And with the wisdom and judgment of five-year-olds, what more obvious targets could there be than those old cars lumbering past us at 25-miles-an-hour? And that was what we did. We started lobbing big sloppy mud balls, the size of grapefruits, at every car that drove down the street. What fun! Exceptional fun! It really was.

Our aim got better and better until it seemed we could hardly miss. Mud balls slithered across car roofs and plopped onto their hoods. Mud splattered on windshields and flew into radiators. There was the occasional tinny clank of mud hitting hubcaps too. But nothing, nothing, was so genuinely satisfying and heartwarming as a dead center, full-bore, double broadside, Thud! Thud! against a side door. I mean… that was what we were there for!

I remember one such broadside in particular. It was our last. A big maroon car came droning down the street, just begging for mud balls. Thud! Thud! Chickie and I blasted it with all we had. Oh, what a moment! That car felt the full impact of two perfectly lobbed mud balls! And that big maroon car squealed to a stop right in front of us. Uh oh… Uh oh! There was a big gold star on the door with mud sliding down over it.

Chief King, with his big round stomach, got out – the quintessential chief of police with graying hair showing under his cap, gold rimmed sunglasses, lots of badges and handcuffs and shiny things jangling all over him… and a gun in his holster. We were scared out of our five-year-old wits!

“What on earth are you boys doing?!!”

Thinking back on it, it was pretty obvious what we were doing. The Chief’s cruiser looked awful. He looked even awfuller.

Chief King launched into a long tirade about jail and reform school and the big trouble we were in and how there were cars all around town with mud all over them. He had a mind to make us wash every one of them, even if it took a whole year (which it surely would have).

Then he took Chickie by the ear, yelping and hollering all the way down the sidewalk to his house, and delivered him into the custody of his grandfather at the door. I watched and listened, and it didn’t sound like very much fun. So, I ran. I ran home, ran from the law and hid in the garage. But my parents found out too. Chickie and I didn’t see each other for quite a while after that. It pretty much put a damper on mud season.

In my mind, that was a good old-fashioned spring. It started with mud and mud balls, and, despite my brush with the law, those things still give me something to chuckle about around this time of year.

tire tracks in the mud

Barnaby PorterArtist and author Barnaby Porter has had a varied career in marine research, aquaculture, and woodworking, among others. Most recently he partnered with his wife Susan as co-owners of the Maine Coast Book Shop & Cafe in downtown Damariscotta. Barnaby currently serves on Coastal Rivers’ Board of Trustees. For more about Barnaby, click here.