How to be tough in Texas
I live in a state where the mosquitos are so tough that they can suck your blood through your jeans. Hot sauce comes as either ‘mild’, which makes you cry for mama, or ‘spicy’, which could give you a permanent lisp. Forklift operators wear Stetsons instead of hard hats. Librarians drive monster trucks to work.
Yet I have learned that there is one thing that can reduce a Texan to my size. Snow.
Yesterday, Austin froze in position like a game of musical statues. Overnight we had had two and a half inches of snow and I had woken up to a quiet and splendid world. However, despite the delicate frosting that made even our picket fence look beautiful, there was not one soul on the street. I considered the possibility that the rapture had occurred and that God had not wanted me. Then, I looked online and saw that a snow day had been declared.
This meant that shops, offices and the university campus were closed until further notice. When Walter learned this, he uttered a ‘hurrah’ of triumph and returned to bed with a blanket wrapped around his neck. He mentioned something about a deadline and pressed the door firmly in my face.
Having nothing better to do, I decided that the time was ripe to teach Poppy about climate change. In the following half hour, I selected every single warm item of clothing that she owned and struggled to put it on her. As I wrestled with my child, she thrashed about in paroxysms of complaint. By the time she was dressed appropriately for snow day, all I could see was half of her grumpy face peeking out from an over-sized coat. Her eyeballs swiveled reproachfully in her head.
I strapped this unhappy bundle into her stroller and ventured into the storm. Tears of shame at being so badly dressed rolled down my daughter’s cheeks. A man walked past us looking as if his mother had dressed him too, for on top of multiple layers of sweatshirts he wore his plaid dressing gown, knotted snugly at the waist.
Poppy, me, the man in the gown, and sundry other astonished Texans traipsed down the streets of our neighbourhood. We marvelled at the shards of ice in our local creek and took photos of the single digit snowflakes on the spring bulbs. Drivers sailed cautiously by in their big-wheeled trucks lest the frost put them in a skid that would pivot them into the creek. The Texan sun mustered its courage and peeked out from behind the clouds. By the time I returned to our house, the firmament was ringing with the tinkling sounds of snow-melt pouring off roofs.
Just as I started to excavate the bale of cloth in the stroller in search of my baby, I heard an embarrassing sound. I turned towards the outside laundry in time to see a great plume of water explode from the washing machine inlet. Reader, you guessed it. We had not properly secured our outside water lines during the freeze and so, as soon as the ice melted, the water pipe burst.
I yelled dramatically for Walter who was, you recall, still in bed. A few seconds later, he charged out of the house carrying a pair of pliers. He was wearing his heavy-duty gloves and my lacy dressing gown. As gallons of icy water gushed over Walter, he did an inverse version of the River Dance: his arms flapped and wrestled wildly with the torrent of water but his legs remained frozen in place. Long after man had won the battle with water, the firmament still rang with the sound of his curse words echoing into space.
One might conclude that, like all other Texans, our household failed to demonstrate an adequate level of toughness in the face of snow day. However, someone stepped forward to represent us and that someone was Steppenwolf. At first sight of the snow, our brave hound growled at the frosted world and then launched herself into it. She padded across the steppes of our lawn with atavistic grace. She redistributed the water from our burst pipe in great spangles from her tail, and later that day, she dived into a pond still cracking with ice.
Later that evening Steppenwolf lay next to the hearth in a comatose fashion, toasting her frost-bitten paws in the firelight. Yet, for once in her life, our dog could sleep the sleep of the righteous. For she had demonstrated, emphatically and without competition, how to be tough in Texas.