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Wind of the West Texas Variety

One of the realities of living in the Texas Panhandle is the ability to not become agitated by the wind. There are some days the grit and gusts can drive you mad, but then there are those unbearably hot summer days when you can count on that cool breeze just before sundown.

Today we have the shelter of our cars, home and offices where we can escape the incessant blowing that can continue over several days and nights. Weather fills many conversations in this area, mainly because it’s so unpredictable and can change within a matter of several hours. Because of the wind, our rain and snow never falls straight down. It comes in wet and sideways.

“She shivered with cold, for the icy wind was at her like a great dog, leaping on her, pulling at her clothes, shaking her.”

“Oh, for the calm and solitude of some still, woodsy nook in the country at home – some spot where she could relax and creep back into her soul’s peace and happiness if only for an hour!”…

THE WIND by Dorothy Scarborough.

The best description of the prevailing West Texas wind that I’ve read is from a novel by Dorothy Scarborough. First published in 1925, THE WIND (1979 by the University of Texas Press), paints a very bleak and dismal picture of life on the high plains, but it is an excellent read. The story is haunting. I wonder about the women who had little more than a dugout or plank cabin where the sound of whistling wind would never cease. In their solitude, I can understand how pioneer women might go mad.

Dorothy Scarborough, author of THE WIND.

“She was blown along like a leaf in a gale, in the power of a demon wind that mocked her desperation. She screamed, but the wind shrieked louder. She struggled – but of what avail is a leaf in a tempest, a feather whirled in a cyclone? When she felt that she must die or go mad of terror, she gave a strangling cry.”

The experience of moving to Texas does not end well for the main character, Letty, and yet Scarborough captures the essence of our area and explains why some of us choose to call this vast emptiness home. During the main characters trip west, a gentleman traveler suggested she look at a sunset.

Texas Panhandle sunset. Photo by N. Bright.

“As she looked she saw before her a sky incredibly blue, of clear, pure color such as she had never seen before. Far, far ahead to the west where the earth met the sky, the sun rested, a great ball of flame, its rays spreading outward and upward to the heavens it had left. In that high, clear altitude, where one can see to great distances, the sun seemed at once remote and close at hand. The wind-blown clouds above were touched to brilliant orange, rose, and gold, and all imaginable shadings of rainbow hues. There was nothing to break the view, no tree nor house nor hill, only the free sweep of prairie, which was now a shimmering gray lit by reflected light, and at the horizon’s edge the burning splendor of the sun.”

Dorothy Scarborough wrote about Texas, cotton farming, and women’s life in the southwest. She spent some of her childhood in Sweetwater, Texas before studying at the University of Chicago and Oxford University, and then taught  creative writing at Columbia University. Her critically acclaimed book, THE WIND (Harper New York, 1925), was made into a movie in 1928 starring Lillian Gish. The film can be seen in its entirety here. Scarborough died at the age of 57 in New York City.

Natalie Bright is a blogger, author and speaker. Her fun, historical western TROUBLE IN TEXAS series for middle grades is a great read for the entire family, and the RESCUE ANIMAL series features true stories about horses.  Read about Natalie’s grandmother and her cherry salad recipe, selected for “THE WESTERN WRITERS OF AMERICA COOKBOOK: Favorite Recipes, Cooking Tips, and Writing Wisdom” (TwoDot Publishing, June 2017). Read her novella, a dark, dramatic women’s fiction set in Texas 1930’s titled MAGGIE’S BETRAYAL selected for the anthology, OUR TIME ON ROUTE 66