Wednesday, September 04, 2013

A Change in the Weather

I like hot weather, within reason. Of course, reason is subjective, as you soon realize the first time you read the comments on any online news article. Growing up here in the frozen tundra, I can recall thinking my parents should be charged with child abuse for making us work outdoors when it was eighty degrees. After ten years in the eastern Oregon desert (yes, there is such a thing) where the thermometer regularly hit triple digits in August, I like the eighties just fine. I'm a huge fan of summer in general, so it's really hard for me to say this, but...I'm ready for a cool down.

Nothing extreme, mind you, but after a straight month of hot, dry days, I wouldn't mind dialing it back to the seventies. Of course, it never works that way here. We'll cook for another week, then get slammed with a late September snowstorm, or at least drop to the forties in a day. Man, I hate that. The shivering is bad enough, but now that I'm getting some age on me the big temperature swings kill my bad toe.

Naturally 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 spring 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 all that much after all.



Linda G. said...

LOL! Okay, now I REALLY feel like a dinosaur for not having a smart phone yet. Guess I'm gonna have to break down and get me one them darn things. ;)

In A Mini Skirt said...

Fantastic post! Makes me even more homesick! Although on Mondays in Calhan, the cafe is open at the sale barn, and if I wasn't "required" to work that day, I'd skip out so I could go sit there, drink coffee and listen to stories. I'm betting there's a lot of tall tales (BS!) being gabbed about by old ranchers.

Karoline Rose said...

I recently wrote an article for Tri State Livestock News on Grizzly bears. Do you have an issue with them in your area? I know here in Bozeman wolves seem to be a bigger topic but some days I think bears get skipped over.

Anonymous said...


The bears are creeping closer all the time, but as of yet we haven't had any direct issues with them. Last week a pair of grizzlies were spotted at the end of our driveway, which is two and a half miles from our house, and a couple of days after that we could see where they'd been in the granary (the door was open as we were still harvesting), fresh bear scat scattered around. We never did see them, though, and they seem to have moved on.

Just a few miles west of us, my aunt has problems almost every spring. Last year was the worst:

We don't hear as much about wolves here as further south, not sure why. However, we are starting to have more mountain lion sightings, right up to the outskirts of Cut Bank. They follow the river down and hang out in the rimrocks below town.

Unknown said...

Love this post! I'm with you on the 70s ... that's my idea of a perfect summer!