I don’t understand people who love summer, the hotter the better. That makes no sense at all.
I’m a pluviophile though I don’t know why.
I was born and raised in the heat of the Sacramento Valley and that was fine when I was a kid. Children in my day paid scant attention to sweat, dirt and scraped knees. But by the time I was too old to run through the neighbors’ lawn sprinklers I began dreading summer.
For me spring is a sinister warning of what’s to come
For the past forty years or so I’ve tried hard to find a radio job in cold, wet and perfectly dreary Seattle or Portland. I love the Pacific Northwest with its year-round sweatshirts, smokey chimneys and soggy green everything but I could never get a job there.
Instead, I landed in Texas.
Everything you’ve ever heard about Texas weather is true. We have 60 degree swings in 12 hours. We get heat, snow, flash floods and tornadoes, sometimes all in one week.
I’ve seen hailstones pounding my yard on a 100 degree day.
Summer in Texas begins in April and lasts until Thanksgiving. It is a withering, humid, debilitating heat. If it weren’t for the otherworldly buzzing of cicadas hidden in native oaks you’d swear there was no life on the planet during the heat of a Texas summer afternoon.
Nights cool down to maybe 85.
So, here it is mid-March. I know what’s coming and I dread it.
But, for today only, I must confess: spring is beautiful and reinvigorating, even for a pluviophile in Texas.
We have the biggest sky I’ve ever seen. In spring we have our famous bluebonnets painting hills and prairies stretching to every horizon.
We have colts and calves romping in green pastures and baby bunnies learning to hide for their lives from their many flying predators.
Mesquite smoke flavors the air as folks throw big slabs of brisket onto chunk charcoal before dawn.
Texas kids are back on the lawn.
It’s an early spring Saturday morning in Texas and it gives me pleasure. Yes, it does.
I’ve been a proud and happy Texan for more than six years now so I figure I can step out and tell the one truth about this wonderful state nobody ever mentions.
Ain’t nothing pretty about it. Not in the conventional landscape sense, anyway.
The Western singers croon about the stars at night and yellow roses. The closest anyone ever comes to praising the view of the land is found in romantic visions of historic cattle drives and ancient buffalo herds. Even then nobody ever says the land is pretty. It ain’t. It’s a harsh land with cruel challenges.
Here’s something you probably didn’t know: in the entire, monster size state of Texas there is only one natural lake, Lake Caddo. And half of that is in Louisiana.
Oh, I know there are prettier parts of Texas than what I’ve seen so far. I’ll admit I’ve never been to the glorified Big Bend National Park but I’ve seen all the pictures Google has to offer and while it does seem to possess a lot of fascinating geological features there is nary a tree to be found and many of the pretty swimming holes in the pictorials are dry much of the year. When they’re not dry they are cautions for swimmers because they can contain deadly water moccasins and other natural vermin.
So, enjoy the pictures but keep your kids out of the water.
Most of the pretty photos you see of Texas are taken at sunrise or sundown. Texas magazines and blogs are full of sunrises and sunsets. I’ve posted many myself. I dare say you can take a picture of the sun on the horizon in the Sahara Desert, the Australian Outback or even Nevada and it will look lovely. That’s an astronomical effect, not the land itself.
Don’t misunderstand, I love Texas, I really do. More than anything else Texas is an attitude, a can-do spirit worn on the relaxed, happy smiles of everyone you meet. In Texas we don’t want no gubmint interference. We’ll give you the shirts off our backs, a good meal and a place to sleep. Tomorrow you’re on your own and we’ll wish you good luck.
That’s the Texas I know and love.
People of all ages and races tip their hats and give you a howdy. They hold open the door for you at the Mini Mart. They call you Sir and Ma’am even though they don’t have to. They’re always smiling because it’s the decent way to be. It’s Texan.
Above all, folks in Texas are outgoing and friendly. If you’re in a line with three strangers at the grocery store you’ll be swapping recipes by the time you get to the checkstand. And they always lace their conversations with deep Texas humor even when they talk about the scenery.
In a word, it’s flat.
“West Texas is a place where you can stand on the porch and watch your dog run away for a week.” — Hal Jay, WBAP Dallas
I’m a native Californian. I grew up with giant redwoods, the pine studded forests of the high Sierra and the cold, rocky coastline of the Pacific Ocean north of Mendocino. I miss all that but everything in life is a trade-off.
So, I’ll romanticize tumbleweeds blowing across I-20 from Midland to Odessa because it’s the most exciting thing you’ll see there. And it can be pretty at sunrise.
In Texas we have longhorn cattle lying contentedly in green groves of Blue Bonnets, though the wild flowers are only there for a month each spring. You’ve seen hundreds of pictures like this.
We have the world’s best barbecue and Tex-Mex cuisine, honky tonks and Texas swing; we got the Alamo, the Dallas Cowboys, Willie, Larry McMurtry and Dan “his ownself” Jenkins.
There’s a lot to love about Texas but not the view. People wax eloquently about Hill Country but you’ll never hear the word “mountain” in a description of the state. Even the haunting piney forests and bayous of East Texas, where ghostly cypress trees grow out of the swamps wearing old man beards of moss is merely west Louisiana.
I’m writing this in Abilene. Not only is it not the prettiest town I’ve ever seen, if you blindfolded me and spun me around and dropped me into the middle of it I might guess I was in Waco or Waxahachie, Dime Box or Gun Barrel City.
And I guess that’s the real beauty of Texas. It’s one place in time like all the others in the Lone Star State. It’s all different yet the same and it’s a lot of different people a whole lot alike.
Sweetness and attitude.
And you can call them country and they don’t care
And if you don’t like the way they wear their hair
You can take your like and shove ’em on up the line
People in Texas don’t care if the sun don’t shine
This is not a tornado but it might have turned into one if conditions had been just slightly different yesterday. The photo is pure Texas in the spring.
Here’s another one taken yesterday near Lampasas. This is called a supercell. You don’t see these everywhere, mainly in tornado alley. You really don’t want to see one up close and personal. But again, this is not a tornado, though it can give them birth.
When you live in Texas you learn more about weather than you need to know in California. Spring and fall are severe storm seasons. They can throw softball size hailstones at us, spawn terrifying tornadoes and create brief straight-line winds up to 100 mph on what was a hot, sunny day just a few minutes earlier.
Most Texans don’t seem terribly concerned by any of this. Here in Tornado Alley there are darned few storm shelters and nobody has a basement or cellar. Crazy, right? There’s just something inherently Texan about being a cockeyed optimist and at the same time shrugging off fate.
If your time is up, it’s up.
But spring in Texas is also time of dazzling natural beauty, when the prairies bloom into a heavenly landscape of wildflowers. Chief among them is the Blue Bonnet, the state flower of Texas.
I don’t know anyone here that would give up either extreme.
The essence of Texas is a sense of wonder built of challenges overcome.