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Spring is in the air! Or at least that is so in the Rio Grande Valley. But not so in parts of the United States. Some places are still feeling the chill of winter with morning temperatures of around 35 degrees while temperatures for those of us in South Texas are enjoying 70 degrees - just perfect for an early morning stroll.

We can't rely on the ground hog to predict Spring for they just don't exist in this part of the United States. We often depend on another method to predict when Spring is in the air.

It is generally in mid to late February when the ordinary dead looking mesquite tree begins to show signs of life. Almost overnight beautiful emerald green lacy looking foliage adorns this tree. Then we can be sure that Spring is just around the corner. Mother Nature is giving us a tried-and-true signal - Spring is in the air.

Although other native trees grow sturdy and straight every mesquite seems to take a different form according to the effects of the weather. Strong winds may have toppled the tree to the ground but if even the smallest of root is left, the tree will continue to grow but in a mostly horizontal position. Or maybe the wind did not topple the tree, it just caused one branch to grow horizontally just a few feet off the ground. If that tree is in a yard where grass must be mowed, the yard man will consider it a real nuisance. Regardless of what happens whether it is a drought, a hurricane or lightning, the mesquite is a hardy tree and will spring back. The mesquite is a survivor.

Native Americans found good uses for this tree - especially for medicinal purposes. It is said that a poultice made from pounded mesquite leaves that have been mixed with urine and bound around the head will cure a headache. Don't think many people today would try that solution. They also brewed tea from the bark which they say cured venereal diseases. Even today some of our local mothers will brew tea to bathe their children's eyes when they have pinkeye. They say this soothes the itching and irritation.

Herbal cures have been used for ages. Books have been written regarding remedies found in native plants. Penicillin is produced from the mold that grows on bread. The prickly pear cactus is said to help control diabetes.

What did our parents and grandparents do before we had modern medicine? They turned to natural remedies. Their life expectancy wasn't as long as it is today. But like the mesquite, they were survivors. They made do. They sprang back. They had their very own unique personalities. Just like the mesquite, they had character.