By Steve Holt, Opinion Editor
Funny thing about the arrival of fall in West Texas – it doesn’t.
Summer temperatures survive out here through October, then one November morning T-shirt-clad students step out of the dorm to a case of frostbite.
So much for a gradual ease into winter – out here we are thrown into the chilly weather faster than we can say, “Dude, can you help me pull down the sweater box?”
But the temperature rates as the most exciting part by far-don’t expect to see any brilliant foliage around campus or smell leaves burning every afternoon. Out here, God just doesn’t have much to work with.
Maybe I was spoiled, though. I grew up in New England, a region where over every ridge was a palate of fluorescent oranges and reds, illuminated by the late day sunset and reflected with perfect symmetry off a Thoreau-esque pond.
Autumn brought apple picking, antique shopping and leaf raking followed by leaf jumping.
The turn of August to September and a “first freeze” around the same time seemed to create a unique atmosphere in the Northeast-it was just, well, fall.
Needless to say, Abilene autumns play out differently. For starters, erase the image of the “ridge” and the “pond” from the above scene.
Furthermore, in my three autumns in West Texas, I have yet to really feel that “unique atmosphere” that signals the arrival of autumn. Maybe that is because by the time sweater weather arrives, many stores have moved their winter clothes to the clearance racks.
A perfectly acceptable scientific explanation for the fall season difference exists, of course.
“As the sun’s trajectory brings spring to the southern hemisphere, autumn returns to the northern hemisphere,” said meteorologist Randy Turner of KTAB-TV. “Being at a latitude much farther north than ours, temperatures are naturally cooler in the New England states.”
Abilene also receives more rain during the fall than New England, which keeps the trees greener, longer. Of course, the lack of rain the rest of the year in West Texas accounts for fewer trees to begin with.
Not that anyone can do anything about it, but by mid-September, I am ready for some cooler weather to signal the arrival of fall. High school football and the end of the Rangers’ season may suffice for some, but I need more.
Put a couple apple barns out by Lake Fort Phantom, throw in the smell of shade tobacco drying, add some water, color and a chill in the air, and we might be on to something.
I’m not holding my breath, though.
While I am content right here in Abilene for the time being, my heart will be with the millions of leaf lovers touring the New England states over the next few months. The foliage industry brings millions of dollars to the region, which makes me wonder how West Texas could cash in on its version of fall.
Then again, maybe West Texas should just stick to oil and cattle and 19th century forts.