I know. Like everything else on this ranch, the ol' blog is running behind. No, it's not still winter as the header might imply, I'll get on that. Or else I already have by the time you're reading this, and you're seeing green grass and sunshine instead of snowdrifts. It did finally stop snowing the last week in April, we have green grass, the trees are starting to get serious about leafing out, and the blizzards have morphed into sweet-smelling spring rains.
I'm sure glad the weather has settled down, all those April storms were killing my bad toe. Of course I'm not cool enough to have a bum shoulder that acts up whenever a cold front rolls in. Nope. I get shooting pains in my crooked fourth toe. And no, I didn't break it while fending off a charging bull. I tripped over my son's footstool one morning in a pre-caffeinated haze. Not much of a coffee shop story there.
I remember back in the old days, the boys down at the cafe΄ comparing aches, a cluster of grizzled, human barometers. "Yup, gonna rain tonight," Art might declare. "The knee I messed up back in '68 is throbbing like the devil. You remember when I did that, Bob, down at Birch Creek when my colt blew up…"
Followed by a full recitation of the events of the day, beginning with how many spoonfuls of sugar Art had stirred into his coffee that morning and ending with a vivid description of the resulting blood, gore and permanent deformity. Uninterrupted, because no matter how many times the rest of the crew had heard the story, it's proper coffee shop etiquette to listen, nod, and gasp on cue. Besides, as with all good cowboy stories, the wreck got better with every re-telling, so it was always worth listening to hear the latest embellishments.
Art would barely wind down before Bob would pipe up, waving the stump of a digit that he'd caught in the coil of his rope back in '75. Kept the severed part in a jar on his dresser to show unsuspecting visitors until his second wife figured out what it was and made him give it a proper burial. "The way this ol' thumb is tingling, I'll betcha it's gonna snow. At least a coupla inches. Prolly get down close to twenty degrees 'fore mornin'."
Then someone else would chime in asserting that, no, if it was gonna be that cold the ankle he busted two years ago woulda let him know. And around they'd go, each convinced his scar tissue could produce the most accurate short term weather forecast.
Ah, how times have changed. Last month we went up to High River, Alberta to a three day Senior Pro rodeo, what was once--less politically correct, but more accurately--referred to as the Old Timers tour. We were due to head home on Sunday, but a blizzard was predicted for Saturday night so we were keeping close tabs, debating whether to leave early. I mentioned this to a cluster of over sixty team ropers as we all sat horseback, waiting to compete.
Four of them whipped out smartphones to check the forecast. Not a single mention of aching joints, not one good wreck story. Just squinting and pecking at their palms. As I mourned the loss of yet another fine tradition rendered moot by technology, Bob said, "Well, now, that doesn't sound right to me, Art. My website says only three inches of snow, and it's not gonna start 'til after midnight."
"Bah!" Art dismissed Bob's forecast with a wave of his hand. "There's gonna be close to a foot, guaranteed. You gotta use my website, it's way more accurate."
Another guy cut in, shoving the screen of his phone under their noses, insisting that no, his website was obviously more reliable. Why, if it said the storm would start at midnight, you could put money on the first snowflake hittin' the ground by 12:01.
And me? I just smiled, thinking maybe some things don't change that much after all.