Many things change, and many things remain the same. The way Texans talk about their weather falls into the latter category.
A column I wrote exactly 40 years ago, in January 1978, floated to the top of a file of yellowed clippings I’ve been reluctant to throw away. Its topic, as you might have guessed, was weather in Texas.
It’s a subject that gets discussed frequently during Brown County Youth Fair week, because whether it’s warm, mild, chilly, or freezing — and it’s often the latter — the weather is always memorable. That’s probably because young people and their supporters find themselves confronting the elements more often than usual as they relocate and groom their show animals for judging.
This week, the temperatures have been generally accommodating except for some overnight freezes. It is January, after all, but at least we’ve had some sunshine. Forecasters suggest the hardest freeze won’t arrive until Sunday morning when everyone is safely back home.
Across the 66 years of Youth Fair history, the weather has not always been this respectful of our needs. And thus, we have the reputation of “Youth Fair weather.”
Overnight lows in the teens with 80 to 90 consecutive hours of subfreezing conditions are not what most Texans expect — unless they live in the Panhandle. In our part of the state and farther south, mild winters are the trade-off we make for triple-digit heat in the summers.
The points mentioned in my column 40 years ago still ring true today. While some here favor cooler conditions, the horrible winter Americans in the Midwest and Northeast are enduring this year makes most Central Texans happy to be living where we are. Perhaps we experience a few days of freezing temperatures and occasional periods of snow or ice, but overall, we’ve got it pretty nice.
That doesn’t stop us from complaining about extremes, though.
Consider the year-round conditions of almost any other state, and I’ll take what we have almost every time. California has a pleasant climate, but there are the fires and mudslides to deal with. Even with the humidity, Florida offers an appealing retreat each winter, but residents have to dodge hurricanes every autumn before that season arrives.
I guess Hawaii might have everybody beat, but it’s a long haul to anywhere when residents decide to travel.
We must recognize our climatic negatives in Texas, ranging from severe winters in the north to hurricanes along the Gulf of Mexico, plus tornado outbreaks everywhere in between.
Our summer heat is another story. Let’s just be thankful for air-conditioning.
I’ve been unable to find the origin of the phrase, “If you don’t like the weather in Texas, wait a minute,” but it’s become an overused phrase because it’s true. Other states have their own version of that observation. While often attributed to author Mark Twain (1835-1910), no record of his saying exactly that can be found. The phrase started showing up in publications in 1915.
Twain did have some clever, if not profound, observations about weather, and those go to prove that every region of the country can experience rapid, extreme shifts in conditions. It’s just that in the Brownwood area, the excessive cold doesn’t linger as long as it might in other areas.
If the temperature does drop to around 20 degrees Sunday morning as had been predicted earlier this week, take heart. Spring is only 66 days away.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.