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Indian Winter?

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, April 6, 2013

We all know about “Indian Summer” – that blessed return of warm, sunny weather after fall has already nipped the mature green of summer. Leaves have started turning and nature seems to have rotated away from warm toward cool when, out of nowhere, we get a reprieve.

We get sunshine, but not sunburn; warmth, but not heat. Another crop of daisies blooms in the grass even as it dries to straw, and for a little while we enjoy summer again before winter sets in for good.

The recent April cold spell feels like “Indian Winter.”

Jonquils, tulips and iris are blooming. Bluebonnets are beginning to blanket the roadsides. Gung-ho gardeners have already set out their tomatoes, going for that early crop. Grass is greening, and trees are pregnant with buds.

Bob Buckel

Bob Buckel

Then here comes the blessed beautiful rain – and along with it, another freeze. Some of the tender plants got burned, but even where it didn’t freeze, the temperatures slipped back down in the 30s for several mornings. Jackets came out of the closet, and blankets went back onto beds.

Your thermostat is probably as confused as mine. After going over to air conditioner mode for several afternoons in March, suddenly it’s back to heat in April. Folks who kept their woodpile dry even resurrected the fireplace for a few nights, creating more ashes where they’d already been cleaned out and flues closed.

I hear the complaints.

People who were ready for summer feel messed-with. They can’t wait for warmer weather to get here and stay.

But I’m not one to complain about cool weather. I revel in it.

For one thing, winters here are so mild that we’re hardly ever cooped-up like our unfortunate, northern brethren. I’ve never had snow piled so high against my door that I couldn’t get out of the house. I have, however, enjoyed spending whole days outside when the temperature never got out of the 40s.

Years ago, I went to Minnesota in October and took a cab from the airport to my hotel. The driver, who was Lebanese, laughed when I asked him how he survived the winters up there.

“You just have to remember that for a few months, Mother Nature is trying to kill you! You must not let her!” He talked about how many layers you wear, with gloves, hats, how you plan trips and make allowances.

Most of us remember vividly the “snow days” – the few times in our lives when winter changed our plans. We get a bit (remember Super Bowl week in 2011?), but it’s not a way of life here.

The other thing in winter’s favor is that it tends to bring rain or snow – and I am precipitation’s biggest fan.

That comes from growing up where the average annual rainfall is 12 or so inches – and sometimes that all falls on the same day. I can hardly remember an issue of our local paper that did not have a weather-related story, and I seldom heard a prayer at church that didn’t petition the Almighty for “rain on our crops” so the cotton farmers could keep putting those checks in the collection plate.

I never understood those “rainy day” songs about feeling blue or sad or down. Where I came from, rain was a cause for celebration, for rejoicing, for dancing in the streets.

If that comes along with a little cool weather, it’s a small price to pay. It beats sitting there in the summer, watching it rain off in the distance and knowing the drops aren’t even reaching the ground because it’s so hot.

The summer people will get what they want soon enough. In a few months they’ll be soaking up all the rays they can handle, basking in the searing heat while I long for some kind of cosmic air conditioner to blow on North Texas and free me from the oven that is August.

Right now, I’m just enjoying this Indian Winter.

Bob Buckel is executive editor of the Wise County Messenger.

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