Uncle Louie and the Wayward Wind.

"Them frogs ain't got a chance 'ginst a fast-risin' rain!" - Uncle Louie.

Some of the most unforgettable characters I ever met came early. They were members of my own extended family, profiles for countless novels that never found their way into print and mostly, wayward wind, king-of-the road type travelers who dropped in to see us every once in a while like so many blue moons.

Only one other characteristic bound them together in any form of unity. They were all related to me on my mom’s side of DNA package.

My favorite of them all was “Uncle Louie.” He wasn’t actually an uncle, but all my cousins knew him as such too, so that’s what we also called him. Louie actually was something like a second cousin, twice removed on my maternal grandmother’s maternal side of that splintered family branch. Louie had established an identity with some of the blood kin somewhere as “Uncle Louie” and so it stuck. He was Uncle Louie – no matter how times some family members tried to remove him for creating some considerable drag on the family’s needs for social ascendancy.

Uncle Louie was just plain folks. No one seemed to be really sure of his exact age. He had one of those character faces that placed his age as being somewhere between fifty and death with no discernible change over time. He stood moderately tall, somewhere close to six feet, and he was of slender build with dark skin, high cheek bones, and a permanent smile etched into his craggy skin from a lifetime of living in the sun. To me, he always vaguely resembled Iron Eyes Cody, the Native American actor that used to shed a single tear in those old anti-litter public service messages. I will always believe that he was several parts Cherokee, but I have no proof of same beyond my eyes and intuition.

Uncle Louie was a mechanic by trade and pretty much a drifter by choice. He worked everywhere from Louisiana to New Mexico, but he also seemed to come back to South Texas, San Antonio, and Houston for short visits with family from time-to-time. He loved to fish. And he loved Tarzan movies because of the monkey named Cheetah. You see, Uncle Louie thought Cheetah was the funniest creature on God’s good Earth.

When he was in town, Uncle Louie would often take me and little brother John to the Saturday kid movies. H eseemed to love them as much as we did, especially if Cheetah was on the bill. We had a field day at the concession stand on those occasions – and that exercise was just a warm up for the malted milk shakes we then got to order at the fountain drink counter down the street at Mading’s Drug Store after the show.

Uncle Louie was what we used to call a confirmed bachelor. I always assumed he traveled alone because he wanted nothing in his life that might slow him down from his free-to-drift on the will of the wind life style. Mom came down on the harsher side in her own mind about why Uncle Louie remained single forever. “No good woman would put up with Louie for thirty days,” she opined. “Any wife of Louie would have to get used to a man who goes fishing at the drop of a hat, a man who just picks up and moves over night, and a fellow who just hardly has an opinion about anything, other than Cheetah, even if you ask him.

Mom was wrong about Uncle Louie on one count. Uncle Louie had strong opinions on weather and he described certain weather conditions in ways I have never forgotten. In fact, many of these phrases are descriptors we still use to this day. Most of these terms, and most likely all of them, were not original with Uncle Louie, but his attention to the use of them when he was around us simply underscores how important changes in the weather were to this good man. He definitely danced through life to a different drum during his long and still uncounted years on this earth.

Sleep tight on the Happy Fishing Pond, Uncle Louie! I hope that Cheetah is there with you to share the joy of a lazy afternoon on the coolest bank near the water. For everyone else, here’s my list of Uncle Louie’s Weather Terms – and my brief explanations of what I know or think they each also mean:

(1) Frog Strangler. A rain that comes down so fast that even the frogs drown before they can find the high ground.

(2) Blue Norther. A polar cold front that blows into Texas on the front of deep blue-black clouds; a cold front that drops local temperatures fifty to sixty degrees in just a few hours.

(3) Gully Washer. A flash-flooding tide of water caused by a cloudburst of rain in large volumes over a few minutes of time.

(4) Egg Fryer. “It was hot enough that day to dry an egg on the sidewalk.”

(5) Goose Bumper. “It was cold enough that day to turn your skin into goose-like flesh.”

(6) Wind Whacker. A gale like wind that has the power to throw things around and knock things over.

(7) Burger Broiler. Throw the patties on the barbeque pit. You won’t need to light a fire today. They will cook themselves.

(8) Skeeter Heater. Heat that follows a soft summer rain. It’s just warm enough to awaken the mosquito eggs that have now been hatched by the ground’s new moisture.

(9) Sweat Swamper. The humidity is now so high that we are in danger of needing canoes to navigate the swamps created by our cumulative perspiration deposits.

Uncle Louie forgot the one weather reference that most governed his sweet and innocent life. He was a man of the Wayward Wind, a man who loved to wander. In fact, as the old song says, he was more a blood relation to the wind than he was to any of us. – “For he was born, the next of kin, – the next of kin, to the Wayward Wind.

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2 Responses to “Uncle Louie and the Wayward Wind.”

  1. Mike McCroskeyu Says:

    I’m well familiar with the first 4 and number 10. 5-9 were new to me. I was wondering if you’d ever actually seen a blue norther. I did once.

    I was goose hunting just west of East Bernard in some rice fields with a friend of mine named Joe Walsh. As we were looking out towards the sky in search of birds we noticed the air seemed to be a different color a half or mile so off. As neither of us had seen this phenomenin before, and there was little else to do in a rice field in the early morning with no birds around, we watched it as it continued to approach us. It was like a great wall, with no end from left of right, from ground to sky. It just moved slowly towards like a giant curtain of dark blue air. We could discern the color difference between the air we were in and the wall of air all the time as it steadily approached us. When finally we, too, were engulfed in the dark blue air everything around us looked normal, but the temperature dropped 10 to 15 degrees immediately. We looked at each other and both surmised, “I guess that’s where the term Blue Norther comes from.” Before that we had both believed that it meant it was so cold that it you turned blue, not that you could actually see the color difference of the air. Makes me wonder if some frogs do drown.

    Mike

  2. Bill McCurdy Says:

    Mike:

    You just described a blue norther to a “T”. They are “like a great wall, with no end from left to right, from ground to sky.” Once they hit you, the temperature drops instantly by ten to fifteen degrees and usually gets colder from there.

    Thanks for that quite visual contrbution.

    Bill

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