With Author Rodney Strange
Spring is definitely in the air, or as we like to call it out here in west Texas...dirt. The rest of you are admiring your daffodils and blooming tulips while red-breasted robins hop through your green lawn in search of an elusive earthworm. Meanwhile, out here we're busy dodging tumbleweeds the size of John Deere tractors in zero visibility. As you admire the beginning of a golden tan on your cheeks, we're digging dust and dirt out of cracks and crevices we didn't even know existed while marveling at the power of nature and its ability to get dirt that deep in our belly buttons. While you arrange your dainty wicker furniture with those flowery cushions on your patios, we're cranking up the welder, determined that this year, we will build an iron bench that won't blow away with the next wind storm. You're hanging your baskets filled with potted plants on the front porch and we're frantically dashing around armed with bungee cords and tie-down straps, cinching down everything we own to a shade tree or the propane tank in hopes it all will still be there when the dust settles. Aw, that smell of morning dew on the grass...we smell dirt, baby...dirt. You should see what comes out of our noses after a good dust storm!
I've chased down more lawn furniture than I can remember...and remember, our lawn furniture is heavy! I had a hot tub for several years and can't count how many times I had to fetch the cover out of the pasture and haul it back to the yard. Finally, it blew so far away that I never found it. I had an eighteen-foot trampoline take off like a flying saucer, clipping the corner of the house and pruning the tops of several trees before disappearing out of sight. After the storm, a neighbor from a half mile away called.
"You missin' a trampoline? I've got the remnants of one in my front yard."
"Yep, you missing a swimming pool?"
"How big is it?"
"About the size of that trampoline in your yard."
It's like a swap meet after a dust storm. We all scurry outside to see what treasures blew up in our yards. Just like a Chinese Christmas.
I have my favorite dust storms. The wind blew out of the west at eighty miles an hour...sustained, mind you, one Saturday morning for three hours. I had six inches of sand between the double pains of my patio doors. I lost the riding mower in that storm...didn't blow away. Sand blew so hard that it filled the crankcase and I threw a rod when I started it up. Then there was a Wednesday afternoon when the entire west side of the carport came loose in a seventy mile an hour wind. Like a fool, I climbed up a ladder with baling wire and rope. As I leaned my upper body against the metal roof, a gust picked it up, me along with it and slung us in the air like a rag doll...that was more fun than Six Flags! My favorite wind storm though was the day my barn blew away. It sounded like a beer can crushing underfoot. The insurance paid off really well on that one, mainly because there was no barn for the adjuster to evaluate and all he had to go on was my description of what kind of barn it was before it blew away. I tend to embellish now and then...I am a storyteller, after all.
I've been here in west Texas for over twenty years and I don't know why. Apparently, the only way out is to die. It's been said that this spot of Texas has the most severe weather anywhere in the United States, including Alaska. It's severely cold in the winter with those same winds howling out of the north at a steady gait of thirty to forty miles an hour. The old-timers say there isn't nothing between here and the North Pole but a barbed wire fence and it's down most of the time. Just as winter leaves, spring blows in. By the time June arrives, we're weather weary. But the good news is, summer always comes!
While the rest of you are hunkered down under an air conditioner, sweat dripping from your armpits, we're out mowing the lawn in the evenings beneath a most awesome sunset that, believe it or not, only blesses west Texas. As you stand beneath cold water in your shower in a futile attempt to find refuge from a hundred-degree temperature at midnight, we're sitting on our patios watching a huge sky full of twinkling stars that, believe it or not, only blesses west Texas. We'll stay outside until the temperature drops so low that it forces us inside with a shiver and a giggle as we think how lucky we are to be in west Texas. The humidity pegs out at around fifteen percent in the summer...so while you make a mad dash from the house to your car, busting into a sweat in your ninety percent humidity...think about us.
I met a man a few years ago who had moved here from Houston and he commented that, according to the weatherman, the humidity outside was thirty percent.
"Thirty percent! That's unbelievable! Thirty percent!"
"Yeah," I drawled, "It is a bit humid today."
I didn't mean it as a joke, but he is still laughing about that conversation to this day.
And then there's autumn...yes, fall! Now I remember why I've been here for twenty years...those awesome west Texas autumns. Believe it or not, only west Texas is blessed with an autumn so awesome! Come on down and catch a west Texas dust storm. Once you cough up all that mud out of your lungs, it's smooth sailing into summer!