Back in 1959, my freshman year in high school, Dinah Washington recorded a smash hit song called “What a Difference a Day Makes.’’
That song came to mind when I woke Sunday to a wicked northwest wind. The foamy waves on the Missouri River crashed one after another against the rocks that line the bank below my place. The wind blew from just the right direction to squeeze into a leaky spot in the corner of my living room and make the furnace work harder than it usually does this time of year.
I haven’t been able to find that leaky spot, but the attacking wind seems to know where to look. I’m fortunate, I suppose, that it’s wind and not mice. I wouldn’t know where to plug a hole if one of them showed up inside. That hasn’t happened yet.
It used to be a regular part of the changing fall weather in the big house we had in Pierre. Late fall or early winter, year after year, I’d see signs of mice in the basement. Well, the house was built in 1906, so it was only natural that it would have shifted and creaked and shrugged enough to give the rodents an opening. Funny thing, though. I’d set a couple of traps in the furnace room, nab two or three, and we’d be done with them until the next fall. I suppose I got rid of the immediate problem so easily that I lacked a real incentive to do a long-range fix.
Anyway, Dinah Washington’s song is about romance and the difference “24 little hours’’ can make in a person’s life. It struck me because last Saturday was a picture-perfect day in this river town. The sun shone in an open sky, the breeze rippled the surface of the Missouri just enough to make it interesting and the boat ramps on both side of the river had pickups with empty trailers scattered across every bit of open parking space.
I can’t recall when I’ve seen as many fishing boats out on the water on a weekend after Thanksgiving. I saw a Facebook post of a line of fishing rigs stacked up from the launching area all the way back to the main street. That was in the morning, and the action continued through the afternoon. I couldn’t tell if the people in the boats were having any luck, but they sure looked like they were enjoying themselves. Maybe they were just out there to escape relatives who wouldn’t leave. That’s a good enough reason, too.
Nancy and I had finished our Christmas decorating on Friday, so we had time Saturday to walk and walk. We went through the park on the north end of town, weaving our way through the parked pickups and trailers. We sat for a long while on a bench at the river shore, chatting a little but mostly just admiring the sun and water. It was one of those late-fall afternoons so delightful you just know it can’t last much longer. Even so, the suddenness of the change to Sunday’s clouds and wind and cold caught me off-guard. For all the years I’ve lived in this state, I’ve never really gotten used to how abruptly the weather changes. I sometimes feel like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.’’ “My,’’ she says at one point, “people come and go so quickly here.’’
I’m not complaining, you understand – not about Saturday’s gift or Sunday’s shift. That’s South Dakota. Our weather is capricious, unpredictable. People who live here come to appreciate the changes. We must. Here we are, and there are other places we could be.
Usually I don’t make a big deal of weather as winter nears. I learned that lesson years back. It was just into December, a mild, dry fall. In a whimsical mood, I wrote that there really should be snow during the run-up to Christmas. A few days later a powerful system dumped 8 to 10 inches of snow across most of the state. A friend emailed: “Satisfied?’’
I’m satisfied with whatever comes next. I might ask the Legislature to make Dinah Washington’s record the state song, though.