Weatherford Democrat

April 28, 2013

NOW HEAR THIS: The year without summer


Weatherford Democrat

— By LARRY M. JONES



Several years ago, North Texas’ famous bad boy country singer Randy Travis performed a delightful song entitled, “Forever and Ever, Amen.” A couple of the lyrics that were indelibly imprinted in my mind were:

As long as old men sit n’ talk about the weather,

As long as old women sit n’ talk about old men.

It has been my experience that old women never need an excuse to talk about old men (the season’s always open), but this past spring, old men have had a lot to talk about in regard to the weather. Being a card-carrying member of the “Grouchy Old Men Club,” I want Al Gore to tell me when global warming is going to kick in this year. Enough! I’m tired of frosty mornings and cold soil temperatures in my garden.

This year has been particularly slow to warm up. On a normal year, it is not uncommon to have a frost in early April, but this year we have had seven this month, with the last one being this past week. In March we had killing temperatures one day in three for the entire month, with two disastrous hard freezes on 25 and 26 March. This unusually cold weather wreaked havoc on the hard-working peach growers of Parker County and much of the state. As late as this past week, I have had my Coastal Bermuda hay fields seared by frost.

As depressing as this spring has been, our weather could have been worse. I recall that back in the old days, it used to get really cold. I was too young to remember much about it, but I believe it was 1816 that was referred to as “The Year Without Summer.” It was also called the “Poverty Year.” This unique weather phenomena was purportedly caused by a series of volcanic eruptions, with the last being Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies in 1815. Witnesses reported a “dry fog” that reddened the sky and dimmed the sun. This was probably volcanic ash from the eruptions blocking the sun and causing the crops, mainly corn, to fail. With these failures, prices soared for what foodstuff was available, and the poorer classes suffered greatly from hunger. The area that had the most disastrous effect was the Northeastern U.S., the Canadian Atlantic states and parts of Western Europe.

While the fruit growers here in Parker County face a bleak harvest for 2013, livestock producers and gardeners like me still have time to make a crop. Everything will be a bit late, but hopefully we can rebound from an inauspicious beginning. However, I fear that unless I replant, my sweet corn is going to be a complete loss. It’s been planted for two months, and it is only 4 inches tall. Having been frost bitten or frozen 16 times since planting, I’m surprised it’s still alive. If I can just grow a few tomatoes, I’d be a lot less grouchy.

If I recall correctly, I think it was Al Gore’s great-great grandfather who “invented” hair spray in 1817, which destroyed the ozone layer, started global warming, and enabled the country to recover from the calamitous “Year Without a Summer,” 1816. Hey Al, it just might work again. By golly, I’m ready.

Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to nowhearthis@pwhome.com.