In Praise of a Texas Summer

 

I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as soon as I could.

For me that was the summer of 1979, the year I graduated from college. I drove down to Texas from Michigan with my wife Janet in a brand-new car that lacked air conditioning. (Yes, they still made cars without air conditioning back then when the wooly mammoths still roamed freely.) We learned the joys of Texas 2-55 air conditioning that summer (the two front windows rolled down as you go 55 mph down a Texas highway – it was so long ago the double-nickel speed limit was the law).

I grew up in Michigan. Its summers are cool. You often need a windbreaker at night. Its winters are cold, really cold. Not Minnesota or Alaska cold, but cold enough, with an overlay of damp from the Great Lakes surrounding Michigan’s peninsulas.

I was warned about the Texas summers by my Michigan friends as I prepared to move down that Memorial Day weekend. They are going to be hot. If you live on the Gulf Coast they are going to be muggy. They are going to be long. In Texas summer’s heat kicks in around mid-April and does not depart until October starts (or sometimes, November).

For nearly forty years since then I have lived in Texas, either on the Texas Gulf Coast or the Piney Woods. I have camped in the Big Thicket. Visited the Hill Country and the Blackland Prairie. Travelled to the Dallas-Fort Worth Area and the prairies around them.

My friends were right. Texas summers are hot. And long. Sometimes, especially in the northern part of the state, Texas summers are just hot. In the middle, they are hot and humid. Along the Gulf Coast, they are hot and muggy. They are glorious.

Maybe I am strange. (Well, maybe not maybe.) I love the hot summers; even the hot, damp summers. You go outside and the heat soaks into your bones, whether it is the broiler heat of North Texas or the steamer heat of the coast. I like that. Maybe it is my Mediterranean ancestry. (All four grandparents came from Greece.) All I know is when I grew up in Michigan the winter cold would soak into my bones in early November and not leave until late June. Give me that Texas summer so I can feel warm.

I especially like the damp heat of the Texas Gulf Coast. Yes, you build up sweat on your t-shirt walking from the front door to the mailbox. Yes, when it is humid enough you feel like you leave your outline in the air as you pass through it.

On the other hand, it tends to stay in the high 80s or low 90s on the Gulf Coast. You almost never hit the triple-digit temperatures of the DFW area or prairies. The Gulf keeps it that way, using a good chunk of the Sun’s energy converting water to vapor. Then the vapor cools down the place when it is carried onshore and falls as rain.

Want relief? Go inside. Just about every indoor place in Texas is air-conditioned. Air conditioning kills the humidity. In a Texas summer, you can set the thermostat to 80 and feel cool. (So cool you might put on a light sweater.)

As long as you take precautions the heat will not kill you. Don’t sit out in the midday sun. (Especially in Texas – if you think Houston is bad for sunburn, try San Antonio – or San Angelo – or Brenham – or anywhere inland.) If you have to be outside midday, wear a hat with a big brim. (There is a reason the Mexican sombrero, Texas Stetson, and Australian digger hats all have wide brims.) That baseball cap or gimmie cap will keep your scalp from getting sunburned and keep the sun off your eyes (unless you wear it sideways, gangsta style), but it won’t do squat for your ears or neck.

When you are outside push fluids; lots of them, regardless of the time of day. Find a breezy spot in the shade and let your body emulate the Gulf through evaporative cooling. Put off heavy outdoor work until the hour before sunset or the two hours after sunrise. (It helps to be an early riser. I am.)

The best part of a Texas summer is that it means come November I will avoid one more Michigan winter.

There are 15 comments.

  1. Henry Racette Contributor

    I spent a year in Austin during the fin de siècle tech boom. I think I was too busy trying to negotiate the madness of Austin rush hour traffic to notice the heat. But then, my car had air conditioning. (The one I drove during my year in Tucson didn’t.)

    • #1
    • February 5, 2018, at 6:17 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. Seawriter Member
    Seawriter Post author

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    I spent a year in Austin during the fin de siècle tech boom. I think I was too busy trying to negotiate the madness of Austin rush hour traffic to notice the heat. But then, my car had air conditioning. (The one I drove during my year in Tucson didn’t.)

    Austin rush hour traffic will make you sweat more than the Texas summer. Even with air conditioning.

    • #2
    • February 5, 2018, at 6:24 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  3. Vectorman Thatcher

    I’ve only been there for two days in the summer, but a DFW fellow said that the high plateau area in the west Texas triangle (Alpine, Marfa, Fort Davis) is a reasonable place in the summer, and far enough south in the winter to avoid the “blue northerners.”

    • #3
    • February 5, 2018, at 6:26 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  4. Front Seat Cat Member

    We feel the same way about the Florida climate coming from the North. What I do know about Texas (not a lot) is I’ve noticed Texans are very bighearted, generous and patriotic. I have several clients from TX and they are the best.

    I love the HGTV Show Fixer Upper with the Gaines’. It exudes that warmth that comes from the people, not just the climate. They did a show with one of their big construction people named Jimmy Don – a Texan all the way – a project for his son. Joanna Gaines took her 2 little girls to the Bush’s ranch in Crawford where they have a large native tree farm and the little girls picked a tree for the project with Laura Bush. Mrs. Bush said she loves Jimmy Don – he worked on their ranch during construction. I heard the Bush Library is magnificent.

    Also love the Blue Bonnets and prairie fields. Look how Texans responded to the hurricane – heart and strength all the way. I visited my sister when she lived in Houston – visited the biggest steak house I ever saw, had the biggest steak, was served the biggest iced tea – everything is big – and we had the best time in Galveston – yes – your Michigan friends would be jealous!!

    • #4
    • February 5, 2018, at 6:29 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  5. Seawriter Member
    Seawriter Post author

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    your Michigan friends would be jealous!!

    Only the ones still in Michigan. Many came down themselves between 1977 and 1983. The year I graduated from the University of Michigan (1979) more Michigan State University grads found jobs in Texas than in Michigan.

    • #5
    • February 5, 2018, at 6:39 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. PHCheese Member

    Greek, that explains a lot.

    • #6
    • February 5, 2018, at 6:59 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  7. Aaron Miller Member

    Seawriter: In Texas summer’s heat kicks in around mid-April and does not depart until October starts (or sometimes, November).

    Recent years have been odd in that we seem to have experienced real seasons with the sustained cold of an actual winter. Usually, “winter” just means grey skies and a week of cold, a week of cool, a week of cold, a week of cool, etc. It’s not strange to get 80-degree days in December or January.

    • #7
    • February 5, 2018, at 7:33 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  8. Seawriter Member
    Seawriter Post author

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    Recent years have been odd in that we seem to have experienced real seasons with the sustained cold of an actual winter.

    It’s all due to global warming I tell you.

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    Usually, “winter” just means grey skies and a week of cold, a week of cool, a week of cold, a week of cool, etc. It’s not strange to get 80-degree days in December or January.

    That is the Texas winter I love.

    • #8
    • February 5, 2018, at 7:50 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  9. Arahant Member

    Seawriter: Don’t sit out in the midday sun.

    Sure, NOW you tell me.


    This is a conversation in our Group Writing Series under February’s theme of “We Need a Little Summer.” If you have tales to negate this:

    with something like this:

    then perhaps you would like to go to our schedule and sign-up sheet and pick a day to share it with us?

    • #9
    • February 5, 2018, at 9:38 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  10. Peter Seebeck Inactive

    I too have settled in Texas (San Antonio area). Great place — love the weather. But, I want to put in a good word for the people of Michigan. My daughter played soccer at Central Michigan. I was in the military and they recruited her from a tournament in Florida (so no connection to Michigan at all, in fact not one of us had ever visited the State). Unfortunately, she was killed in a car accident right before her second year. All I can say is the people we met in Michigan were the kindest, most caring people I’ve ever dealt with. I’m glad I’m in Texas, but people from Michigan are great.

    • #10
    • February 6, 2018, at 7:34 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. Seawriter Member
    Seawriter Post author

    Peter Seebeck (View Comment):
    I’m glad I’m in Texas, but people from Michigan are great.

    Well . . . a lot of folks in Texas were originally from Michigan. Myself, my late wife, my younger brother, and my brother-in-law among them.

    • #11
    • February 6, 2018, at 8:05 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  12. Manny Member

    My trips to Texas have been mostly business trips. I’ve been in Austin a few times. I can’t remember if it was summer time. But it’s a lovely city. I have some relatives in Dallas, which I visited once. It was June and it was hot.

    • #12
    • February 6, 2018, at 8:06 AM PDT
    • Like
  13. Seawriter Member
    Seawriter Post author

    Manny (View Comment):
    I have some relatives in Dallas, which I visited once. It was June and it was hot.

    If you visited in June, it was hot.

    • #13
    • February 6, 2018, at 8:09 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. Arahant Member

    Peter Seebeck (View Comment):
    All I can say is the people we met in Michigan were the kindest, most caring people I’ve ever dealt with.

    Both of those pictures right above your comment are from Michigan. The top one is from my front balcony in the winter. The bottom photo of the schooner is taken from a ferry on its way to South Manitou Island in Lake Michigan.

    Condolences on the loss of your daughter.

    Here’s another bit of Michigan:

    Mission Point Beach at sundown
    • #14
    • February 6, 2018, at 12:26 PM PDT
    • Like
  15. Manny Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):
    I have some relatives in Dallas, which I visited once. It was June and it was hot.

    If you visited in June, it was hot.

    I now remember that at least one of my trips to Austin was in the summer, and it was hot…lol.

    • #15
    • February 6, 2018, at 1:07 PM PDT
    • Like