Giving little warning and no adjustment time, it’s not uncommon for the High Plains to switch seasons with all the smoothness of a first-time driver downshifting.
And it’s about as comfortable.
It happens quickly — T-shirts and shorts are traded for sweaters and scarves in the space of a day around these parts. It doesn’t take long to learn the value of layers, and seasonal clothes are never really packed away because when least expected, the temperature will flex in the opposite of what it should.
Never conforming to the expected or predicted, snow in April and heat waves on Christmas are just part of the fun of living in the Wild West.
Yet it’s always wise to gear up for the winter of a lifetime because when and if it hits, chances are good the old man will be brutal and unannounced, as usual.
It can be hard to imagine what will be needed when jackets are still being shed before noon but with a little imagination, the picture is attainable.
Dry, bitter and biting wind that cuts to the bone will work its way through cracks in windows and doors and will relocate anything not tied down, replaced by mountains of tumbleweed.
Piles of snow will drift and eventually melt long enough to turn everything to mud, only to freeze into solid ice as soon as the sun goes down.
Of course there are the standard preparations to be made, such as winterizing the vehicles, making sure drafts are sealed, stocking up on firewood and the like.
But humans won’t be the only ones to feel the pain and the critters will need some extra care as well.
• When winterizing vehicles, be sure to seal and properly dispose of antifreeze — fatal to pets who love the sweet taste.
• Disconnect and hang water hoses and use insulated coverings for faucets needed for filling water dishes to reduce freezing.
• Check the engines of vehicles and or bang on the hood to scare away cats and other small animals that may crawl inside looking for warmth.
• Feed more. Animals use more energy trying to stay warm and extra helpings of food will help.
• Keep something heavy on hand for breaking ice in water dishes.
• If animals must be kept outdoors, provide them with shelter that is raised off the ground to keep them dry, provides refuge from the wind and has thick bedding to insulate against the cold.
• Change of season is a good time for veterinarian check-ups to help determine how a pet may handle weather changes and to anticipate needs they may have.
• Prevent injury and accidents — don’t leave pets unattended around fireplaces or heaters.
• As much as possible, keep pets indoors in freezing temperatures. In most cases, they get cold just as quickly as people do.
• Salt and de-icing chemicals can irritate or burn paws and upset stomachs. Limit exposing pets to them as much as possible and clean paws with damp washcloths or towels when they come indoors.
• Fight boredom by providing toys for house-bound days and look for ways to burn off excess energy and get exercise whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Though it can be trying and uncomfortable, winter is survivable and can be a little less miserable with planning.
Besides, since lots of snow translates to greener scenery and less dust when spring rolls around, and deep freezes spell death for flies — a definite blessing come picnic season — a little winter goes a long way.
Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org or on the web at: www.insearchofponies.blogspot.com