Monday, January 9, 2017

The Square Peg - Winter Came to South Texas

The Square Peg - Winter Came to South Texas
© S. Bradley Stoner

Let’s get something straight right off the bat. I am not a complete heliophile, and no, I did not make that word up. It’s obscure, but I didn’t invent it. Basically, it means sun lover. Don’t get me wrong, I like sunny weather, especially warm, sunny weather. Just not all the time. Into every life, some rain must fall isn’t just an adage, it’s a freaking necessity. Considering we humans are mostly water, we’d be in pretty sad shape if the rain stopped permanently. Sorry... the old choo-choo left the rails for a moment there. Back to the subject at hand, namely our cold snap last week.

After days of balmy 70 degree temperatures, we got what is called a “blue norther” here. It starts out with a kind of westerly wind that suddenly switches to a northerly wind as a front from Minnesota or some other God forsaken ice ball city descends on us. When that front passes to the south, temperatures plummet. It went down to 21 for heaven’s sake. Oh, I know, that’s nothing like temps up north, but for us a 50+ degree drop in less than 24 hours is a shock to the system, not to mention a shock to the vegetation. All the leaves dropped off my chocolate tree. It’s a naked skeleton now. And all the Mexican fire bushes? Let’s just say their fire went out. I could go on, but you get the idea.

It’s fun to watch Texans when it gets what northerners would call chilly. Down here, they all turn into Eskimos. Down coats suddenly appear. Walmart sells out of mittens and ski gloves. I’d guess clothing stores make a fortune during the Texas winter. And cars won’t start... at least some of them won’t. I’m guessing really cheap batteries are the cause of that. AAA and tow trucks do a lot of business when this happens... oh, and Walmart’s battery sales skyrocket. Smart folks have heavy duty batteries. They give rides to folks who bought cheap ones. It’s a good way to get to know your neighbors.

Being from Colorado and living in Montana for the better part of our lives, my lady and I did just fine, thank you very much. We still have our Montana coats and, well, we don’t consider 21 degrees mitten weather. It’s just a bit nippy. Consequently, we don’t pile on extra clothes or hibernate inside. Things go on pretty much as normal. At least, our version of normal, with a few slight deviations. For example, we have two fountains on our stone patio we keep running for the birds and other critters, When we get a hard freeze, they have to be shut down and the critters find out what “hard” water really is. That pee-oed the grackles no end. When their water isn’t on, they come knocking at my back door. Literally.

The first time it happened, it about drove me nuts trying to figure out the source of the tapping. It wasn’t loud enough for a woodpecker. It was just a light “tap, tap, tap,” pause, “tap, tap, tap.” When I finally pinpointed where it was coming from, I opened the curtains to behold a big male grackle staring up at me like, “Well... where’s our water?” Yes, sir, if Edgar Alan Poe had lived in Texas, we’d have a poem called The Grackle...

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door
Only this and nothing more.

Open here I flung the shutter, when of a sudden I discovered,
Out there standing a purpled Grackle staring up, and really sore;
His black eyes flashed, his feathers ruffled, voice disturbing;
For the fount was silent, its pump but resting from its daily chore,
The tap, tap, tapping at my door to start the water and make it pour,
To slake his thirst, and nothing more.

Sorry, Edgar.

Oh, and the cold snap? It’s over. It lasted three days. It’ll be 65 today and in the 70s the rest of the week before the next front comes through this weekend. It’ll drop the temps into the 50s. Brrrr.