Ron Smith 1, Senior Content Director

September 18, 2008

3 Min Read

Today I felt just a slight hint of fall in the air when I went out around lunchtime to check the mail.

A bit of breeze was blowing and the oppressive heat that has shrouded most of Texas for most of the last three months seems to have taken an extended Labor Day holiday. I had a brief thought that perhaps we've seen the last of hot weather until maybe next May.

But I recalled that this is Texas, after all, and that 98-degree days are still not only possible but probable for the next few weeks. I also reminded myself that this brief respite from heat comes courtesy of Hurricane Gustav, which, in its weakened state as a tropical storm stopped just shy of Denton County, pushing some impressive winds from the east but offering no appreciable rain.

Yesterday was overcast and windy and I found myself searching in the back of my closet for a flannel shirt to ward off the cool. I'm cool-natured anyway and typically resort to an afghan or long-sleeved shirt when Pat and I sit around watching television. She's the opposite and will have the ceiling fan turned on full blast while I'm covered up.

I have to admit that I'll be happy to bid this summer a less than fond farewell. It's been too hot for too long. I've even cut short a few fishing trips because temperatures got unbearable. Shade is hard to come by in the middle of a lake and when the fish aren't biting and haven't been for the last two hours, discretion dictates hauling the boat out and finding a shady spot, or air-conditioned one, and something cool to sip on to recuperate.

I have found that river fishing can be more rewarding in the heat of summer. The fish don't bite all that much better but the opportunity to cool oneself with a quick dunk in the water makes up for an hour or two with no fish on.

But I digress. I'm ready for fall. I suspect most farmers are, too, though a few cotton growers would like to collect a few more heat units to finish out a crop that might have gotten a bit delayed by early drought or hail damage.

And they'd like a nice, clear autumn to gather what's left of the 2008 cotton. Heat, drought and hail took a heavy toll in some areas. Hurricane Dolly destroyed most of the Lower Rio Grande cotton acreage and late August rains hurt some late-maturing fields along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Several told me that scarce rain showers hampered their crops all summer and often what fell came during periods of high wind and high heat indexes so little moisture actually made it to the plants.

I talked to one grower who said two years ago was one of the driest he'd ever seen and last year was one of the wettest and he expected this year to be closer to the driest than the wettest. He'd like a bit of normal, whatever that is.

I'm scheduled to make trips to the High plains over the next few weeks and will face the usual packing dilemma for this time of year. Short-sleeves or flannel and jackets? Rain slickers or sunshades? Who knows? Better take it all. Whatever the precipitation forecast, I'd just as soon temperatures hovered around 82 degrees in the daytime and about 60 or so at night.

Now, if you'll pardon me, I think I'll slip back out and check on that nice cool breeze one more time before the sun comes back out.

About the Author(s)

Ron Smith 1

Senior Content Director, Farm Press/Farm Progress

Ron Smith has spent more than 40 years covering Sunbelt agriculture. Ron began his career in agricultural journalism as an Experiment Station and Extension editor at Clemson University, where he earned a Masters Degree in English in 1975. He served as associate editor for Southeast Farm Press from 1978 through 1989. In 1990, Smith helped launch Southern Turf Management Magazine and served as editor. He also helped launch two other regional Turf and Landscape publications and launched and edited Florida Grove and Vegetable Management for the Farm Press Group. Within two years of launch, the turf magazines were well-respected, award-winning publications. Ron has received numerous awards for writing and photography in both agriculture and landscape journalism. He is past president of The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association and was chosen as the first media representative to the University of Georgia College of Agriculture Advisory Board. He was named Communicator of the Year for the Metropolitan Atlanta Agricultural Communicators Association. More recently, he was awarded the Norman Borlaug Lifetime Achievement Award by the Texas Plant Protection Association. Smith also worked in public relations, specializing in media relations for agricultural companies. Ron lives with his wife Pat in Johnson City, Tenn. They have two grown children, Stacey and Nick, and three grandsons, Aaron, Hunter and Walker.

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