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Texas | Columns

"Hindsights" by Michael Barr

Looking back at
The West Texas Wind

Michael Barr
The wind is as much a part of West Texas as mesquite trees and tumbleweeds. The earliest Spanish explorers felt its sting. Out on the high plains Coronado and his men faced a husky north wind cold enough to freeze the horns off a brass billy goat.

The West Texas wind, especially the March variety, has become a part of our vernacular. Writers and artists explain the world in terms of the wind. Singer Marty Robbins described a young cowboy from El Paso as "wild as the West Texas wind." Christopher Cross's outlaw "lived nine lives, gunned down ten." Then he had to "ride like the wind."

A. C. Greene wrote of a West Texas breeze so stiff "You've got to fight the wind to find a place to stand." Columnist George Will of the Washington Post once described a skinny West Texas cowboy as looking like "he was whittled from a fence post by the West Texas wind."

Even football has not escaped comparison. Several years ago a sportswriter, probably from somewhere west of the Brazos, described the Dallas Cowboy offensive line as being so porous "opposing linebackers romp untouched to the quarterback like wind through a barbed wire fence."
In 1925 Dorothy Scarborough wrote a book called The Wind about an emotionally fragile teenage girl from Virginia who came to live at her cousin's ranch near Sweetwater, Texas. The book became a best seller and a major motion picture starring Lillian Gish.

To the girl from back east, Sweetwater was next door to hell. From the moment she arrived, the wind went to work on her mind. The isolation and the loneliness of West Texas, accompanied by the constant moan of the wind, slowly drove her insane. She committed murder, then suicide, all caused by the wind.
The Wind
In reality the relationship between West Texans and the wind is a bit more complicated. While the wind can be incredibly annoying, even destructive, it is also the lifeblood of West Texas. The wind pumps water to the parched surface and generates electricity. It sometimes brings the rain.

But for most of us the March wind is almost unbearable. It can toss trash cans around like salad. Fish don't bite when the wind is blowing. The wind can play cruel tricks on your golf game. The backyard grill is hard to light. You have to spit backwards.

And wind is hard on hair. Some people spend a great deal of time getting the hairdo just right, only to have their delicate coiffure mussed to smithereens by a sudden gust of wind.

Gotta go now. My hat is blowing down the street, and I have to catch it.


Michael Barr
"Hindsights" April 15, 2016 Column

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