But as they do every year, the days got shorter and the temperatures fell off. Now that we’ve passed the winter solstice and the days are getting longer, winter – real winter – is just around the corner. And that’s as it should be.
Last year winter came early. Looking back over my weather log I see that first frost came on September 28, the first hard freeze on October 3, the first snow fell on October 8 and snow fell every day for a week. We had a nice warm up for a couple of weeks, and then winter settled in for good on October 27. From then until the spring melt there was snow cover on the ground.
This year was different.
It was frosty cold on Christmas morning but the skies were clear and the dawn came like thunder. A second daybreak with warm, bright sunlight was sweet and welcome after a pair of solstice-dark, glowering mornings.
Wheat fields and clean fallow were crystalline bright with frost; countless pinpricks of sparkling brilliance dazzling eyes and mind and heart in a near-explosion of up-sun splendor. Stubble and prairie were drab in comparison, brown and gray and lumpy, but tinged with their own brand of frost, not as spectacular, perhaps, but lovely in their own right.
|Welding gauges glow in sunset light on Christmas Day south of Kimball.|
I’ve enjoyed the snow-free days we’ve had this year, even though I know they are a double edged sword. No snow means no precipitation, and each day without precipitation drives us deeper into drought. As I drive around the county I see a lot of wheat stands in very poor condition and know that a thick blanket of insulating and, eventually, water providing, snow may mean the difference between a crop and no crop.
|As the sun sets on Christmas Day on a south Panhandle ranch, a hay-feeding truck casts shadow on a light-washed outbuilding.|
Still, I’ve enjoyed our snow-free days. And I’m ready for the snow-filled days to come.