First Things

For everything, there is a season ...

Leslie C. McDaniel

Leslie C. McDaniel

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Welcome to February, when, if you live north of the Mason-Dixon Line, winter enters something like its seventh month.

I am told that northerners attending winter tractor and engine shows in the south stick out like a sore thumb. In Florida, on a sunny, 60-degree day in February, we are the ones happily bounding about in shirt-sleeves. The locals, meanwhile, are bundled against the "cold."

By this point in the season, it seems the cold will never end, but you don't have to have too much memory to know that it will.

Surely you recall that show you went to last August, when it was about 95 degrees, not a cloud in the sky, and a strong south wind kicked up clouds of dust? It was the kind of day when exhibitors make a slow migration from one end of the tarp to the other, chasing a patch of shade to sit in as the sun travels across the sky.

Activity is brisk at dawn and shortly thereafter. But by 11 a.m., the temperature has moved into the "barely tolerable" region. The space beneath shade trees is prime real estate. The day's events are planned around shelter from the sun, and proximity to the lemonade stand.

Mid-afternoon. Temperatures edge close to the century mark. Activity slows to a crawl as exhibitors and visitors alike find some place comparatively cool to hide out. Go into the exhibit building, where it's probably only 90 degrees. The most popular exhibit there? The one downwind from the giant fan. Ride the shuttle around the camping areas, and you'll see people of all ages collapsed like rag dolls in the shade of their campers and tent awnings.

Early evening, but sunset is still a couple of hours away. You open the truck doors, waiting to get in until some of the oven-like air inside drifts slowly out. The windshield is coated with a layer of dust; the seats and steering wheel are uncomfortably hot. You've loaded a new treasure into the back end.

"You got a place to put that?" your buddy asks. "You want to get that inside before the snow flies."

Before the snow flies. In August, snow is a sweet picture painted by Currier and Ives. In August, it's hard to remember the exact feel of a day when the high temperature sits squarely at zero. But in weather, as in all things, be careful what you wish for: sooner or later, you may get it. FC