Tuesday, November 15, 2005

It's an Eminence Front!

Notice the color coming in behind it...


Out of whose womb came the ice?
and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath
gendered it?

On the river the wind wasn't strong, but high up it was doing violence. The El Greco clouds suddenly, as though consciously, coalesced into a gray overcast that turned the day ominous. Two long skeins of big birds flapped across that grayness toward the south - sand-hill cranes, grating out their castle-gate cronk -- and I knew what the air's muggy edge meant. Geese confirmed it, the first I'd seen, four snows in a little disciplined V, winging solemnly and soundlessly south. The wind on the river died, and paddling I began to sweat. It was the kind of day that usually, in the Texas fall, is full of a kind of waiting; things are moving, the year is changing, a norther is coming…


There is less talk of "northers" these days. People sit softly at ten fifteen in the evening and watch while a bacon vender points to highs and lows and fronts on a chart, and then they go to the wall to twirl their thermostats, and perhaps the windows rattle a little in the night, but that's about all. . . In the country, though, a front is a fact still. There it's a blue line along the horizon, and a waiting, sweaty hush, and a hit like a moving wall, and all of life scurrying for the southern lee of things. There it's a battening down, an opening of hydrant valves, a checking of young and valuable stock, a walking across the swept lots with a flashlight, a leaning against the hard-shoving cold, a shuddering and creaking of old, tall, frame houses. There it's a norther, and there someone always, inevitably, rightly, cracks the old one about there being nothing between West Texas and the Pole except a bob-wire fence.


A good norther in November can pare fifty or sixty degrees from the temperature in a matter of hours, and if it's a "blue" one, it can bring days of driving cold rain or sleet.

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