Guest Column: Loose Ends

MEEKER I A long time ago there was a special category of conversation called small talk. It served as a bridge to ensuring the continuance of a casual conversation. “How is the weather there?” was not a loaded question.

Anytime one old local cowboy was asked about the latest weather, he only had one answer. “It was jes an ol’ equinoxer, I tell ya.” He didn’t launch into any meteorological explanation, make any excuses about causes, or otherwise rant and rave about the unusually severe snowstorm, gray, overcast days, or the melt-and-pour warm weather that precedes some of the strongest storms here. These days with all the changes in weather forecasting and the use of state-of-the-art technology, you still have the old cowboy attitude, “It is what it is.”

These complaints are registered usually between November and June, Yet, much like this year’s weather, it doesn’t matter if one is used to it, it requires acceptance to be able to deal with it. Old-timers’ stories of going stir crazy — or having cabin fever — after a long winter still ring true up in the high country, but from all reports it varies year to year. The only thing predictable about winters here in the White River country is that we have one. Growing up in the Midwest, I was used to spring just starting to peek over winter’s shoulder in early March, and by the end of the month all of the crocuses and daffodils would be up.

During the years I’ve lived here, I’ve come to expect the extreme temperatures, the sudden blizzards and piles of snow, but I have also come to expect that one year seems to differ from the next. However, one thing stays the same, as we experience these variations during what often appears to be one big weird season- fall, winter, and spring. The white stuff starts flying in October, and stretches to April and even May some years.

Waking up to the “drip, drip, drip” of melting snow seemed surprising in January. I know the ice that is melting fast will freeze again in a few days. Overhearing bits of conversation in the post office and on the streets of Meeker, I concluded cabin fever seems early this year: “I’m tired of being cooped up” and “gotta go somewhere warm.”

Cold, gloomy, weather turns people into weather story badgers. They begin to hoard the little morsels of worst weather stories, until they pile up like crumbs in the kitchen corner to be swept away with a lot of grumbling. Spitting and hissing at the other badgers, who dare to steal one morsel, they get a little testy.

Long ago I overheard two men bickering, as they exchanged outlandish weather tales, claiming to remember the absolutely worst winter of the season.  Outdoing themselves with tales of trucks not starting because of the below zero temperatures and fingers and toes almost to the point of falling off with frostbite, they took such pleasure in topping the other one’s story. It wasn’t until they turned around to walk back to their vehicles, I saw the two storytellers transform themselves back into young men who had no time for small talk.

I miss the old cowboy who sat in front of the old hardware store on the “Liars Bench.” He would dismiss all of us and go about his business of telling real old time tales, “It’s jes that Ole Equinoxer, I tell ya.”


Special to the Herald Times

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