When I made my usual cold-morning trek at dawn last Monday to take a look at the thermometer on the side of the well house, I fully expected to see something I had never seen before in my life.
Weather forecasters had been predicting lows well below zero in Springfield and other areas and I figured things would be even chillier at the remote Texas County outpost where my wife and I reside, as is always the case.
Sure enough, the mercury was way down in the glass tube – at minus 14 no less. I had brought my camera with me, and before it froze solid I snapped a picture, as evidence of the crazy sight.
No that it matters, but minus 14 is about five degrees lower than the previous low my body had experienced. I once went on a school-district sanctioned spring break ski trip with a bunch of other high school kids to Grand Targhee Resort (in northwest Wyoming, close to the Idaho border) and on the way there we stayed overnight at West Yellowstone, Mont. The temperature dropped to about 9 below that night, and we couldn’t believe it.
During the course of my work Monday (while the temperature warmed all the way up to positive numbers), I was talking with someone I know and told him about the negative 14 reading. He smiled and produced a photo of a digital thermometer at his place that clearly read “–14.”
I was pleased to have further confirmation of how really stinking cold that morning was. It’s interesting to note that he said he had taken the photo at 7 a.m. straight up – the exact moment I had taken mine.
Certainly this kind of cold causes many changes in our daily routines, and causes the furry and feathered life forms around us to alter theirs as well. It was easy to notice plenty of that around our place.
Rather than leave their cozy “room,” the normally free-ranging chicken community stayed put from the moment the snow began falling. In fact, they haven’t left yet – but they have welcomed numerous wild birds of multiple species into their little club. When we’ve opened the big door to the chicken room lately, we’ve had to be careful and aware because there’s sometimes about 10 or 12 bird flying and bouncing around in there. They apparently have no trouble finding a way in – it’s the getting out part that confounds them, so we help by “shooing” them out.
While I have no doubt that a truly hungry horse would do what it had to do to dig through seven inches of snow to find grass to eat, I also understand how the domestic versions would just as soon have a human hand them a bucket of feed. They make that obvious by the sounds they make while standing along the corral fence. Maybe it’s just my cynical side, but I sometimes envision Mr. Ed trying to make Wilbur feel guilty.
Perhaps you’ve noticed, but something about sub-zero temperatures makes remaining liquid very difficult for water. In turn, one of the many extra tasks outbuilding animal owners face during deep-freeze episodes is dealing with water bowls that are full of rock-hard ice.
My wife and I keep it simple and take a pitcher of warm water to the bowls, pour some on the bottom until the ice block falls out and the rest in the bowl so the thirsty cats or chickens can drink.
The dogs? Well, being the spoiled pets they are, they get to come indoors and they know exactly where to find a bowl of liquid water under the decorative table in the kitchen.
Whew, minus 14. At least it wasn’t minus 29. That’s what the Weather Channel’s website (weather.com) lists as the coldest temperature ever recorded in Springfield (in 1899 – no mention of which month). The minus 10 recorded there on early Monday wasn’t quite low enough to beat the negative 12 that hit on the same date in 1912.
And while we got a bunch more snow, at least we didn’t get 20 inches, which the Weather Channel indicates is the most to fall on Springfield in a 24-hour period (in 1912 again, on Feb. 21-22). But I guess there’s still time to get more than 54.5 inches of snow for the season, which happened in Springfield in the winter of – of course – 1911-1912.
Anyway, hopefully this winter won’t be remembered for a new seasonal snow record for this area by the time warm weather returns for good. I’m also sincerely hoping I don’t get the chance this year to experience another coldest temperature of my life. In fact, I’ll be just fine, thank you, if I never have that opportunity.
Just think: In June the temperature is liable to reach triple figures. Bring it on.
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.