Plains folks just plain weather obsessed

As a 32-year resident of the Deep South and specifically Hattiesburg (Miss.) Historic Neighborhood, I’ve learned that in these parts, folks get very keen about weather watching only when a special event is on the schedule or from June – November when a hurricane is on the horizon.

Among my family and our friends, the weather was a main topic of conversation – always. I would say plains dwellers – and I’m sure others – are weather obsessed and are most likely to start and end every conversation with reference to it. Even casual greetings on the street will start with “Dry enough for you?” Substitute hot, cold, windy or whatever for dry in that sentence and you’ve got an all-season salutation. 

When I was growing up my aunt and uncle had a cabin on a dam associated lake in southwestern Nebraska where we spent many hours gathering for family reunions and boating, fishing and water skiing, not to mention playing horseshoes and socializing, all in-between meals. The cabin sat on a hill above the lake with a steep drop to the water. Other cabins dotted the hills. All provided spectacular views of sky, hills and water. In a storm, lightening would put on a real show.

One summer, a priest from Boston was providing summer services at my aunt and uncle’s home church and, of course, had become friends with the family, often coming out to the cabin on weekends. One such time, over 4th of July in the peak of heat and thunderstorm weather, he was there. Naturally, all the meal-time conversations started and ended with a discussion of the weather.

After a few rounds of this, the priest felt compelled to comment, noting that we all seemed to be weather obsessed and weren’t there other topics for dinner conversation. After he’d retired for the evening, a plot developed: starting with breakfast the next morning and continuing through the day, no matter what happened, no one was to mention the weather — not at all, nothing.

The next day started out hot and sunny as predicted, then sure enough, a major thunderstorm started blowing up. If you looked out the windows that ran floor to ceiling across the front of the cabin, you could see the dark clouds gathering on the southwest horizon and flashes of lightening zipping across the rolling thunderheads.

By dinner time, the storm had rolled on across the lake, turning day into night and lighting up the sky with those jagged streaks of lightening, bolts that cut the sky from top to bottom, ending with a ka-boom that rattled the windows. The wind blew harder and harder and big drops mixed with hail splattered the ground.

We all sat around the table, eating another fine meal, talking of the day’s activities so far and never, ever mentioning a word about the weather. As this went on throughout dinner, the priest grew more and more agitated. We exchanged glances surreptitiously, while his gaze stayed fixed on the sky. Finally he couldn’t stand it any longer. He leaped up from his chair.

“For God’s sake! Isn’t anyone going to say anything about this hideous storm?”

We all burst out laughing as he looked around the table and realized what had happened. “Okay, okay,” he said, “I get it. You can quit laughing now and tell me how long this storm nightmare is going to last!”




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