DeWitt column: Southern Winters: Strange weather leads to stranger behavior
Columns share an author’s personal perspective.
Southern winters are a lot like Southern women I have known: they can come at you bone-chilling cold one day, with dark, threatening clouds that can bring down trees and power lines with their iciness; then burn you like a fat-lighter-pine fire the next. But most of the time, they are quite pleasant.
I could elaborate on this analogy from my vast and varied experiences with Southern belles, but my wife has provided me with a list of topics that I am forbidden to write about and, strangely enough, the topic of “other women” tops the list. So I will settle for discussing Southern winters in more detail.
Southern winters are often wildly unpredictable and don’t play by the rules. If you have ever experienced a winter up north, then you may expect a cold front that arrives in November, blows in 6-8 feet of snow, shuts down entire city grids, and doesn’t melt away until July 4.
If only Southern winters were that simple. Here in the South Carolina Lowcountry, for example, temperatures can range from the 80s to the 20s within just a few days. You can catch heatstroke on Monday, and hypothermia and frostbite on Wednesday, but the weather still looks good for fishing by the weekend.
To compound the misery, it can freeze every night for two weeks straight and you’ll still have gnats and mosquitoes crawling up your britches legs and going for your “sugar” spots.
Naturally, strange Southern weather causes strange Southern behavior. For those of you with an interest in both meteorology and abnormal psychology, you know you are in the midst of a Southern winter if:
- Your wife insists on cooking her cold-weather favorite, five-alarm chili with onions and beans, then gets furiously offended at you and won’t let you sleep in the same room with her, as if it is your fault. But methinks the lady doth protest too much, if you know what I mean.
- Everyone in town freaks out and rushes to the grocery store to stock up for world’s end or “Icemaggedon” or whatever the national media decides to call it, and when it all blows over you’re stuck with a freezer full of leftover chili, nine loaves of moldy bread and four jugs of sour milk.
- Your wife insists that every dog, cat, houseplant and goat come inside to spend the night, and you end up sleeping on the couch with all the animals. And apparently the goat likes to snuggle and nibble on your ears, which is not as bad as it sounds after you’ve had a few hot toddies.
- Despite warnings to stay off the dangerous, icy roads, Southerners love to ride around and gawk at the ice and snow; then they call their cousins, who have been waiting all year to fire up their four-wheel drives and pull people out of ditches.
- The town tramps and trollops suddenly cease wearing flip flops and revealing Daisy Duke cutoff jeans and walk around wearing long coats, flip flops and Daisy Duke cutoff jeans.
- You have to break the ice in the hog trough so the pigs can get water, but you tell your wife it’s still too hot to clean out the gutters or paint the house.
- You have to leave your outdoor spigots dripping overnight to avoid freezing, but you forget one and that’s just enough to freeze and burst. This causes a geyser of water to spray over a 10-foot radius and threats of divorce that spray pretty much everywhere else because someone can’t take a “nice hot bath and relax like a civilized human being.”
- You and your wife of many tender years have your first big fight, but it is not about adultery or drinking or gambling, but over control of the thermostat.
I could continue, but the TV weatherperson says there is a 20% chance we’ll get sleet and a few sprinkles of snow tomorrow night, so I’ve got to run to the Piggly Wiggly and stock up on a bunch of perishable goods and then go drip my spigots - all but one. It won’t kill that woman to go one day without a hot bath.
I’ll leave you with a parting quote from one of my favorite poets, the aptly named Robert Frost.
“Some say the world will end in fire. Some say in ice. But I say it will end when a Southern woman gets control of the thermostat and then feeds that huge pot of chili to the dogs and that stupid goat.”
Michael M. DeWitt Jr. is the managing editor of The Hampton County Guardian newspaper in South Carolina. He is an award-winning humorist, journalist and outdoor writer and the author of two books.