Q: Is there a winter equivalent to the dog days of summer? And if there is, are we in them now here in Texas? Personally, I greatly prefer the heat of summertime, even the dog days, over these cold, dark, wet days we’ve been experiencing of late. Is it just me or do all Texans come with this kind of natural partiality for hot summer over nasty winter?
Carlie Williams, Abilene
A: Taking note of the to-and-fro of the weather used to be a more popular pastime for Texans than it is today. This is due to the fact that Texas was, once upon a time, filled with farmers and ranchers and ruralists whose livelihoods—and sometimes very lives—depended on it. Alas, as Texans have become more and more citified, interest in things both meteorological and climatological has experienced a gradual dissipation. But even among our non-country countrymen, there still exists a fair number of folks who watch the weather with the zeal of an old agrarian sitting on the tailgate of beat-up pickup, chewing straw and scratching his chin as he gazes up at a cloudless sky.
So the Texanist, a man who enjoys talking about the weather, was excited when he received your query about whether “all Texans” share your feelings about winter and summer. But even though he is an amiable sort with many friends who live within our borders, the Texanist feels compelled to note that the latest available population data puts the current number of Texans at somewhere around thirty million. Hail-fellow-well-met though he may be, the Texanist doesn’t know all of these people personally and can therefore only speak for himself and a relatively small segment of the state’s total populace. Whether or not all Texans share your particular seasonal preferences, the Texanist cannot say. But as he considers himself a pretty good stand-in for the average Texan, he will be happy to offer his two cents.
Texas, from tip to tip, encompasses a full ten climatic regions. There’ the High Plains, the Lower Valley, the Trans-Pecos, and East Texas. And South Texas, the Edwards Plateau, the Upper Coast, and the Low Rolling Plains, in which Abilene sits. And North Central Texas and South Central Texas, the latter of which is where the Texanist lives. Each of these areas comes with its own unique weathery characteristics, but one thing they all have in common is a summer and a winter. Among these two, it’s summer that gets the bulk of the attention. This is because the Texas summer, among the hottest and driest in the whole world, is one of the things for which Texas is famous.
In thinking about summer and winter and preferences for one over the other, the Texanist was reminded of the occasions when he finds himself gazing up at the sky and rubbing his chin like that old farmer, a multiple-times-a-day occurrence, and how he sometimes proudly remarks to himself that he is perfectly accustomed to the Texas climate. When winter begins its transition to spring and the bluebonnets bloom and the smell of fresh-cut grass wafts lightly over beer gardens throughout the state, the Texanist is happy. And when spring rolls into summer and the mercury begins its relentless rise, the Texanist is happy—at least until those triple-digit dog days are upon us once again and he begins to question the gods for having forsaken him so. And then when summer turns to autumn…
The Texanist is pulling your leg. Everybody knows there’s no autumn in Texas. But as soon as that time of year arrives when the temperatures reach 84 degrees at noon and an al fresco luncheon seems like an appealing notion, and then, thanks to a blue norther, it drops to 34 degrees by dinnertime, the Texanist opens the flue, inspects the chimney, starts a fire, and is happy.
All this said, if you were to twist the Texanist’s arm and make him choose a favorite season, he’d pick spring. He’s got a weakness for bluebonnets, the smell of fresh-cut grass, and good beer garden weather. But between summer and winter, again, if you twisted his arm, the Texanist would, like you, choose summertime. It’s just part of who we are here in Texas.
You know what would be nice, though? You know how during the so-called winter it can be shorts weather one day and long johns and overcoats the next? And how during the summer there’s no such variation, and it’s just real hot all the time? Well, sometimes, right around mid-August, when it’s hotter than a billy goat in wool sweater seated on a scalding rock, the Texanist likes to imagine how nice it would be if during those summer months there were comparable swings. Think about it: eighteen straight 100-degree days and then all of the sudden, BAM!, late-July cold front and there’s a week with highs in the forties. The Texanist bets that even a summer lover such as yourself would enjoy an occasional respite like that.
Well, that’s about eight more cents than the two the Texanist promised and the fire has now burned down, so he needs to get out there and grab a few more logs. Thanks for the letter and thank you for your patience.
Stay warm. Until it’s time to stay cool.