Friday, December 4, 2009

What Hath God Wrought: A Trace Of Snow And The Hill Country Shuffle

It all started yesterday, when I took my shirts to the cleaners. The laundry clerk informed me that my shirts would probably not be ready on Monday, as they normally would be, because of, what he quietly described as, the impending “snow storm.” Now, I’m originally from the north, and an avid weather checker, so I knew that the forecast called for only a trace of snow. I’m not a meteorologist, but I assume that a trace of snow means it's hardly worth mentioning. At any rate, a trace of snow does not constitute a snow storm anymore than a single hair on an upper lip, or a couple of hairs, constitutes any type of mustache.

Snow is rare in the hill country of Texas, as the winters are quite mild. Nevertheless, there was a little wintry precipitation falling from the sky this morning, and, as had been forecasted, it amounted to a trace. Nothing stuck, of course, because there wasn’t enough of anything falling to stick to anything. But, even if there had been, the ground and streets were far too warm for anything to accumulate. In the north, what happened today would not even rise to a “non-event,” in terms of snow. But down here, it was the talk of the town. It was something to behold though, I guess, especially given the fact that my oldest brother, living in Ohio, says it still has not yet snowed this winter where he lives.

The snow aside, there is something out here in the hill country called “The Hill Country Shuffle.” Sometimes it’s called the “Austin Shuffle,” but whatever the name, it means the same thing. On those relatively few winter nights when the temperatures approach or dip below the freezing mark, people grab the sensitive tropical potted plants off their patios and decks and shuffle them into the house. Then, they grab sheets and freeze blankets to cover sensitive plants in the yard. The next morning, when things warm up, the sheets and freeze blankets are pulled off the plants outside. The potted plants inside the house are then shuffled back out to the patios and decks.

As temperatures are supposed to fall below freezing tonight, I did the first part of the Hill Country Shuffle today. I brought the potted split leaf philodendron, hibiscus, and bougainvillea which sit out on my back deck inside the house. I then covered my small citrus trees, along with the hibiscus and bougainvillea plants outside in my garden, with freeze blankets. I was not alone. My neighbors, too, were doing the same thing with their plants. And since the weather forecast for tomorrow, and for at least the foreseeable future, does not indicate any more freezing temperatures, tomorrow my neighbors and I will perform the second part of the shuffle, as we take the plants from our houses back outside, and remove the freeze blankets from our yard plants.

When all is said and done, I do hope my shirts are ready on Monday. The laundry clerk will have a hard time convincing me that our “snow storm” today disrupted the usual and customary pattern of cleaning and adding heavy starch to my shirts.

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