November Wind

November 29th, 2011 at 10:45 am

Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:


The wind was so strong that I expected to see a few stripes being yanked from Old Glory and watch them whip away into the atmosphere.

Stretched to its limit, a flag held onto a residential pole for dear life as raging gusts tugged at the Stars and Stripes.

It was a day of warm wind from the south before a day of cold wind from the north. Kansas is just a crazy, mixed-up medley of weather. I guess that’s why we like it here; each day is a surprise. Some people may consider our state to be plain and ordinary, but you certainly can’t say that the weather is boring; it does its best to out-do itself.

Winds that Friday clocked in at 33 mph with gusts up to 46. Certainly not the strongest winds we’ve ever had, but strong enough.

While we seem to always have some level of wind here, it’s often just a relatively quiet stream in the background. On this particular Friday, however, the 70-degree air was on a jumpin’ joyride, headed northbound, and everything above ground was up for grabs.

In a tree-filled neighborhood, I drove through a leaf storm. My windshield was pelted with the colorful handprints of maples, oaks and Bradford pears. Just a few days earlier I had noticed how glorious the Bradford pears were in the bright sunshine. The leaves bore the colors of ripe fruit: pomegranate, mango, persimmon, pumpkin.

Even though it was mid-November, leaves still hung on many trees in town. But now wind was the victor, taking them down, dozens at a time. Dead leaves filled the gutters and I realized that in places they had formed drifts. Leaf drifts.

And huddled like old grief, jumbles of leaves found themselves stuck in the web of shrubbery, unable to move on.

The wind blasted through town. As angry as a bad boyfriend, it slammed the door on its way out, backed over the trash bins and tore off down the street.

As I drove along Fifteenth Ave., Friday morning’s trash pick-up had been completed and now the empty gray poly carts were lying in the street, a half-dozen of them, one after another, face down, each lid gaping in disbelief.

Between poles, electrical lines bounced. No circus performer would walk a wavy tightrope like that. The arm of traffic lights reaching across Sixth Ave. swayed to the beat of the wind. Gusts sent a warm shiver up the spine of a stop sign and the red octagon shook its head back and forth which seemed to negate its stated message.

Walking downtown, I wore a ball cap to keep my hair from becoming tangled. Normally, a hat brim is there for protection, it shades our eyes, but in the wind that protective brim fails us, provides a handle for a gust to grab. And so it happened: my cap sailed away and tumbled down the sidewalk. The cap kept leaping ahead as if pulled on a string, until I made a lunge and trapped it with a foot. I wonder how many caps a year are lost to the Kansas wind.

A stout breeze may seem friendly at first, giving you a bear hug when you walk out the door, but soon you find that it’s like one of those close-talking people, someone who invades your personal space, ignores social cues, and never backs away.

The wind that Friday had a Southern drawl. Saturday was a different story; the wind hit us from the north. Friday, our high was near 70. The cold front on Saturday dropped the temperature to around freezing. Both days, wind was the active story.

KSN Meteorologist Mark Bogner said, “With the low pressure along the strong cold front, contrasted with the fairly high pressure over the southeast, and the much stronger high pressure coming down from Canada, we get ‘squeezed’ in the middle, and since we don’t have significant hills or trees to slow the wind down, we get lots of it here in Kansas.”

Usually the wind simply blows through the margins of our lives, but some days it does a full sweep, clearing everything in its path.

One advantage to wind, however, is that we often see the American and Kansas flags as they were meant to be seen: unfurled.

Yes, here in Kansas, we definitely get our money’s worth out of flags.

Copyright 2011  ~ Cheryl Unruh

columns, life on the ground, seasons, weather

  1. Bob Patterson
    November 29th, 2011 at 11:50 | #1

    “Huddled like old grief”–excellent!

  2. Roger
    November 29th, 2011 at 11:51 | #2

    Another good one, Cheryl. I like the Old Glory reference bookends.

  3. Kris
    November 29th, 2011 at 13:51 | #3

    I think our souls have been tattooed by the Kansas wind. We are marked as belonging here.

  4. elebrown
    November 29th, 2011 at 14:09 | #4

    “huddled like old grief, electrical lines bounced, colorful handprints of maple…” –I could NEVER write like that! You MUST be a writer!!

  5. Weeta
    November 29th, 2011 at 21:30 | #5

    I like “pelted with colorful handprints of maples . . .” because I can instantly see leaves like hands. Great article, Cheryl – I felt like I was there. I felt that breeze come right out of my computer screen!