It’s Feb. 9 and I’m heading west out of Denton, jogging a bit south to run through Fort Worth and the tangle of torn-up highways, deconstructed bridges and snarled traffic, over to 820 and to 30 and then I-20 to Abilene, where I’ll bed down for the night before an early start tomorrow to catch a field day about an hour’s drive north.
It’s 78 degrees as I untangle myself from Fort Worth. The sky is cloudless; wheat fields, emerald green patches, stand in stark contrast to the beige cropland, mesquite-infested range, and the gray-hued mesas squatting on the horizon.
Stock tanks, finally full from recent rainfall, sparkle in the sunlight. Stocker calves amble up to drink and then mosey back to the pasture grass — wheat, ryegrass or revitalized native cool-season vegetation.
Over the weekend Pat and I took long walks — doctor’s orders for her as she recovers from back surgery, a mere pleasant opportunity for me to stretch my legs and get back into the habit of moving a bit every day and to walk and chat with my best friend. We enjoyed temperatures on Saturday and Sunday above 60 degrees. We watched a few birds flitting around in the underbrush beside the walking trails; I picked up a few plastic water bottles discarded by insensitive and oblivious yahoos who have little respect for the scenery.
Joggers catch and pass us, offer smiles and polite greetings and soon disappear. “Young people,” we say in unison and chuckle. A few bicyclists call from behind, “Coming up on your left.” Some apologize for the assumed inconvenience. Not a problem. Have a nice day.
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It was — a nice day. Several nice days, in fact. I have to remind myself that it’s Feb. 9. The groundhog, just last week in his annual faux forecast, predicted six more weeks of winter. And the last four days have seemed like spring.
But it’s February, a contrary month if ever there was one. Official weathermen call for nice weather for the next few days — no freezing cold nights, spring-like, balmy days. It lulls one into unwarranted anticipation.
By Saturday, I know from experience — a lot of experience, since I get lulled into this early spring optimism every year — we could be iced in. Snow could pile up to the rafters. Blizzards could relieve roofs of shingles, knock down powerlines, leave us in the dark and cold and gloom of winter with the memories of a 78-degree afternoon still fresh in our heads.
I planted a garden in mid-February once, on a day much like today. Nothing even sprouted and if it had, the March freeze would have cut it down.
I don’t like winter. I like it less every year as my joints become less pliable, my tolerance ebbs a bit more and my wonder at the beauty of snow disappears as quickly as I always hope the ice crystals will.
Today was nice. Tomorrow likely will be as well. After that, it’s a crap shoot.
I have two coats and a toboggan cap in my truck. I know it’s coming back.