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OPINION | RICHARD MASON: It's hard to love a howling wind

by Richard Mason | December 20, 2020 at 8:44 a.m.

There are good reasons to dislike wind. I'm not talking about a soft breeze, but a wind that is strong enough to be irritating or dangerous.

One of the reasons Vertis and I moved back to Arkansas from Texas was because of the wind. When we lived in Portland, a bedroom community of Corpus Christi, a 25 mile-per-hour wet wind off the Gulf was normal, and every woman wore a chiffon scarf to cover her hair when she was out on the street.

Corpus Christi has a strip of land near sea level running along the shore of a bay, and a bluff where the business section is located. One night we were standing on the bluff to watch the Buccaneer Days Parade as the first band sounded from the bayfront and the color guard stepped out to march with the Texas and U. S. flags flapping in the wind.

As they marched up the bluff, they began to struggle to hold the flags upright, and as they passed us they lost the battle. The wind had whipped them, and they furled the flags. We weren't surprised, nor was anyone else who lives in south Texas.

We moved to south Texas right out of college and had just settled in when the TVs and radios blared a hurricane warning that Hurricane Carla was bearing down. So we headed for cover.

The hurricane took a jog north and nailed the town of Victoria, and all we got was 40-plus mph wind and rain. Over the next 12 years, we were sideswiped a couple of times. Then came Celia, and we got hammered with a storm that demanded putting the kids in the bathtub, draping a blanket over them, and huddling on the floor as both houses on either side of us lost their roofs.

That hurricane started out as barely a Category 1 from 75 miles offshore before turning into a Category 4 with sustained winds of 150 miles per hour and gusts recorded at 180 miles per hour. We rode it out.

One of my favorite movies is

"Fargo." I think there is only a barbed-wire fence between Fargo, N.D., and the North Pole. The line I remember comes from police chief Marge Gunderson, who has just solved a gruesome murder: "How could someone do such a terrible thing on a nice day as this?"

She was driving her police vehicle along a snow-packed road with the wind howling. I've heard preachers rail that sinners would be sent to a burning hell; while that sounds bad, I would rather be sent to a hot hell than to a frigid Fargo.

My dislike for cold wind started when I was the Norphlet paperboy. Skinny as a rail, I couldn't put on enough clothes to keep warm on those cold January mornings. When it's below 30 degrees, I don't care if the weather forecaster tells me it feels as if it's 26 degrees. My feels-like meter says it feels as if it is zero.

A cold wind is bad, but it's nothing like a hot, dusty wind full of sand. I went through three sandstorms while in Libya.

The first came straight out of the desert and descended on Benghazi like a cloak of hot gritty doom. We were alerted by a fellow geologist to get ready for the sandstorm, which the Libyans call a ghibli. I really didn't think a 35- to 40-mph wind from the desert would be a big problem, since we were used to winds of that velocity in south Texas, but I found out quickly that a 35-mph wind blowing off the Gulf of Mexico is a minor irritant compared to a 35-mph wind blowing from a sandy desert.

We tried to do everything the geologist advised to get ready. Our house had windows with shutters, which I thought would be enough, but our friend told us to tape them so that nothing could get in.

"Richard," he said, "the dust and sand from the ghibli will fill your house if you don't seal off every crack."

I didn't believe him, but we taped off all doors and windows and waited for the ghibli to arrive. It was right on time. We didn't have any problems at first, but after a couple of hours I noticed our house was beginning to fill with dust. After another couple of hours, it was bad enough to try and do something.

I rechecked all the windows and doors and couldn't find any opening that would let the dust in. Finally, I came up with a plan: We would close off our bedroom, seal the bedroom door shut, put up our standup Sears fan, and drape a wet towel in front of it. Then we would lie on the bed, breathing through wet washcloths.

As we lay there, Vertis asked, "How long is this ghibli going to last?"

I remembered the day before when I was talking to Mohammad, our night watchman, gardener, and yardman, about that.

"Vertis, Mohammad said they always last an odd number of days, like one, three, or five. He said there was one which lasted 11 days."

"Oh, my God!" Vertis yelled.

We were lucky, because that night the ghibli passed over Benghazi. The next morning the sun was out, and we were faced with the dirtiest house you can imagine.

I had two more ghibli experiences while working in the desert. Trying to fly down to a rig near the Algerian border into a big ghibli was nearly the last flight of my life.

Then I drove south from Benghazi to see Lady Be Good, the American plane that had its navigation system knocked out while bombing Italy in World War II, got off course, and landed in the central desert. Coming back, I encountered a ghibli and was lost for 14 hours.

Cemetery work update: Sunday, Dec. 13, 40 degrees and rain. Cold and wet Denny Palmer, Larry Post, Rob Reynolds, and Richard Mason hit the cemetery with clippers, cutters, and a battery-powered chain saw. An amazing amount of work was accomplished to preserve a bit of Union County history.

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