Well, the winter that everyone has been wishing for the past few years has finally arrived. If this one doesn’t kill the mosquitoes and love bugs and beat back just about every other pest endured by southwest Mississippians, then I don’t know what will. Weeds–you, too, will be met with a formidable foe come this weekend.
They are saying it will be the coldest weather in 20 years. I remember that last bitterly cold snap, back in late 1989. I had just returned from Mississippi State for Christmas break of my sophomore year. I was hired by former Hazlehurst businessman and resident Dennis Beasley to operate his fireworks stand, right in front of his hardware store on Caldwell Drive where NAPA Auto Parts now operates.
It wasn’t the holidays without Beasley’s firework stands. If Dennis did nothing else the rest of the year, he made sure that he had those firework stands around during Independence Day, Christmas and New Year’s. He made a little extra money and also provided a couple of jobs for aspiring late-teen-agers who were coerced into working during the summer, weekends and holidays by their mean ‘ol parents. And, by the basic fact that cars and trucks don’t run unless their tanks have some amount of fuel above the ‘empty’ level.
The cold weather seemed to have followed me south from Starkville and stayed around for a least a week. Local plumbers could not keep pace with the huge amount of calls to repair burst pipes. Hardware stores, including Beasley’s, Hardy’s and Huntington’s, ran out of plumbing supplies in a few short hours one day before Christmas. Then, when the supply trucks arrived a day after Christmas, were overwhelmed with not only plumbers, but also homeowners and business operators. In fact, one supply truck that pulled into Beasley’s was immediately attacked by a band of desperate victims of burst pipes.
Luckily, our family was spared that mess. I sat in a two-window firework stand layered in every stitch of clothing I owned, plus Dad’s coveralls and hunting boots, with a plug-in heater–in 8, 12, and 15 degree temperatures– attempting to move fireworks for those several days. The heater was so small that the warm air was sucked out of the structure by the howling north winds before making contact with any part of me, so it was virtually useless. Any merchandise sold was done through the windows of the few cars that came by, so as to accommodate the purchasers as much as possible.
Needless to say, Dennis lost money on fireworks that particular holiday season. The cold weather simply kept most folks away. I appreciated the position of Fireworks Stand Manager, as it soon turned into Plumbers Helper and Hardware Store Hand–a little job security and some money in my pocket before heading back to Miss. State.
It will be at least that cold again here by the end of this week. Let’s make sure that we stay safe with heating units, fireplaces and stoves. Check on your neighbors and those that are doing with little or no heat. Take good care of your pets and plants and so forth.
Like back in 1989, the cold snap won’t last, and it is probably something our area has needed for the reasons mentioned earlier. We will remember it during late June, July and August when the thermometer shoots the other way, causing hope for cooler weather. And, once again, Mother Nature will have reminded us that she is in control, and all we can do is hunker down to manage it the best way we can.
Joe Buck Coates