When the sun came out and the weather warmed up last weekend, I know I was far from alone in being glad.
After dealing with cold, wintry conditions for as long as we had in these parts, that was about as welcome a change in the weather as one could imagine. When the temperature reached “normal” levels in the mid-40s on Saturday, it was easy to tell we had turned the corner. And even though the wind was blowing at gale force all day Sunday, the 60-degree temperatures were a huge relief.
Looking around the remote Texas County high-country outpost where my wife and I live, it was obvious the neighborhood critters were relieved, too.
On Saturday morning, I saw probably 50 or more robins bouncing around on the ground near the house, no doubt taking advantage of the thaw – and the fact they could actually see grass – to find some tasty organic morsels just below the surface. At the same time, dozens of other birds could be seen flitting around in trees and bushes, all the while doing what seemed like a little more than the standard amount of chirping.
A little later in the morning, members of the property’s chicken community left the confines of their six-by-16 “room” for the first time in more than a week and were out and about pecking the ground, flapping their wings and generally doing what they usually do when there isn’t a thick blanket of white stuff coating the ground.
By afternoon, the dogs were in full lounge mode, lying around on the walkway, porch and in different spots on the lawn.
Of course, the aftermath of a winter storm inevitably includes a muddy, mushy period that lasts a few days after the thaw takes over. With that in mind, my wife Wendy and I took a “walk in the mud” in the afternoon sun.
In addition to seeing mud puddles, we observed that water was flowing big-time in the spring and its outbound branch, and that the creek at the base of the ridge was running high, as snow run-off roared through Cass Township’s big culverts under the bridge.
Seeing all of that water was nice, and knowing it wasn’t enough to be destructive was, too.
By Sunday, the mush factor was beginning to subside and there were actually a few places around the property that were firming up.
But man, that crazy wind – blowing hard and steady with gusts of a good 35 to 40 miles per hour – made it hard to get out and enjoy much, but it provided plenty of valuable pruning to all the trees in the area. I spent quite a while picking up branches and sticks and I didn’t mind a bit; they just went into the bigger of our two fire pits and will come in handy when it’s time to sit out and enjoy some flames on a picture-perfect evening in maybe March or April.
The two horses and the donkey took the nice weather as an opportunity to relax and spent a while lying down in the sun together in a seemingly organized row. And being the smart four-leggers they are, they did so on the leeward side of an outbuilding, where the wind was minimal.
Speaking of changes in weather, I saw a report last week on a Springfield TV newscast that pretty much confirmed what a lot of people who live in this region of the United States already suspected: The area has the most diverse weather in country. The segment featured a weather expert (I think from the National Weather Service) who said there is nowhere else in the country – and few places in the world – where weather so often goes from one extreme to another in a short time the way it does here.
He pointed out that the all-time record high for Springfield is 113 and the lowest temperature ever recorded was minus 29, and that the difference of 142 degrees was highly abnormal. He said we only had to look at the current week to find a prime example, as the temperature was in the neighborhood of minus-15 on Monday and was destined to rise above 60 only six days later.
He explained that the reason the region seems to be riding a weather yo-yo is its proximity to both the Gulf of Mexico (which provides warm air masses) and northern Canada (from where frigid arctic air migrates south), but that neither is close enough to be a dominant factor in the climate. In other words, we’re not close enough to an ocean to get the consistent moderation that coastal areas experience, but we’re close enough to at times be affected by warm, moisture-laden air masses. Likewise, we’re not close enough to the arctic to be inundated by cold with much regularity, but we’re close enough that the jet stream lets arctic air masses pay a visit now and then.
It all stands to reason. Welcome to the middle.
Surely, there’s plenty of time for another deep freeze and a three dog night or two to descend upon central North America before temperatures rise and another set of extremes takes center stage – the kind that can cause residents of south-central Missouri to wonder if the driveway is going to wash away or whether there will be enough water in the pond for the cattle. It’s probably safe to say we’re not out of the winter woods yet and we’d best not start raising our expectations.
For crying in the slush, it’s only mid-January and we all know what February can be like.
Still, I can’t think of any break in the weather that’s been more timely than the one we’ve recently experienced. What a relief indeed.
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: email@example.com.
A trio of resident of the remote high country Texas County outpost enjoy last Sunday’s warm weather on the heels of a big-time wintry blast. From left, Bennie, Abe and Sur.