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A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE
There are green blobs on the weather forecast picture for Texas this week and, in the middle of the green blobs, yellow and red blobs.
Everybody watches the blobs as they march across the state map, jerkily jumping from one village to the next as each hour on the little timeline passes at the bottom of the phone screen.
I suppose it’s a lot better than the weather forecasts of yesteryear, when “think about putting on a hat” was about the best you could expect from the man on the telly after the nightly news.
Today, we can click on a forecast over the cellphones in our pockets and know immediately whether it’s raining in Podunkville or whether we should expect a blob to pass over us on a road trip somewhere.
Much of the time, we keep checking after someone sends a text message saying only “It’s supposed to rain later.”
Honestly, it’s always supposed to rain. That’s what the sky does. It dumps water from those fluffy things that drift through the blue. The fact that it doesn’t do this very often in Texas is what makes it worth sending text messages here and there, as though we should all burst from our houses and cars with gleeful abandon and go stand in it.
But we don’t.
Why? Because when weather comes to Texas, stuff gets smashed up, that’s why.
In fact, stuff seems to get smashed up rather a lot more often than it should.
Not that things should actually be smashed up on a regular basis, but there are some extreme weather conditions that call for a general battening down of the hatches and a scooping up of the chickens and chihuahuas, a hasty hunt for some candles, because – even in our advanced civilization – we just can’t build everything strong enough to withstand the fury that can be unleashed upon us from the heavens.
Were it just a question of the sky occasionally piddling on our picnic sandwiches, we’d be overreacting to the sight of every little blob, but it patently isn’t.
You see, stuff gets smashed up when the blob passes over every town. A roof is torn off a restaurant, a tree is felled over a power line, a culvert turns into a raging gulch, and people crash into ditches, fences, and each other.
The odd thing is that it seems to happen every time there’s a bit of bad weather.
It’s only a matter of minutes before the airwaves are filled with people sending pictures of the destruction, the paneling in the shrubbery, the twisted metal, the broken trees, the dented cars and the sagging electric lines.
I’m not disturbed by the weather in the least. It’s weather. Sometimes it’s harsh.
What I’m disturbed at is the ease with which so much stuff gets smashed up and how often it seems to happen when, frankly, the weather isn’t always all that bad.
The reaction to this might be that weather smashes stuff up and that’s just what life in Texas is like, but when you think about it, the reaction ought to be in building stuff in a way that it won’t be smashed up. House roofs shouldn’t come off when Texas winds hit them. The wind in Texas can be strong; we’ve known that for well over a hundred years. Rain can cause a lot of mess and tends to pool in low-lying areas or surge furiously on its way to them; we’ve known that for quite a long time, too.
Why, then, does so much stuff get smashed up when the blob wasn’t all that large or angry?
You and I both know we aren’t going to change the weather. Texans can do a lot of marvelous things, but stopping a blob isn’t one of them. What we can do, though, is stop accepting the bare minimum in construction standards, design infrastructure to withstand the occasional storm to a better degree, prepare for the first rain and not just the greatest, and honestly refuse to accept stuff getting smashed up as the norm.
The story of Texas is dotted with moments when nature demonstrated her terrible extremes, and from Galveston to Dalhart we must have resolved to rebuild and renew, because we’re still determined to stay.
I’m just wondering why we’re still determined to make everything out of little sticks, when little sticks are exactly what the blobs like to eat.