The Winds Blow Him Away

You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows -- Bob Dylan

Down in Florida where I grew up, a storm is classified as a hurricane when the winds get up to 75 mph. Here we regularly get gusts of 80 mph on those windy March days. And they aren't always the warm Chinook snow-eaters. These are cold, biting winds that pierce blue jeans and knit caps. Of course, due to the difference in air pressure, hurricane winds at sea level will blow you away whereas our winds just blow away everything that isn't nailed down.

I live north of Fort Collins in the middle of the chute that funnels north winds off the high plains of Wyoming. When I get home after a blustery day, I walk downwind to pick up garbage can lids and various toys left out by my kids such as balls, dolls, and plastic wheelbarrows. If the stuff isn't plastered against the barb wire amidst a tangle of tumbleweeds or fallen into the irrigation ditch out of the wind, then it is lost forever.

Even stuff that is nailed down is sometimes blown away. In October, I'd finished putting boards on the garage roof and figured I'd lay down a 3-ply thickness of roofing paper to get it through the winter. As with the roofs I put on in Florida, I used asphalt cement and staples so it would last for 5 or 6 months until the weather warmed enough to properly apply shingles. Three days after I finished, a windstorm peeled off almost everything and dumped it in the irrigation ditch. I ended up putting on one strip of paper at a time followed immediately by shingles and didn't breathe easy until a few weeks later when the sun warmed everything up enough to glue the shingles together.

In our backyard, I built an L-shaped privacy fence just to stop the winds from the north and west. The cedar windbreak makes a very calm area so I put a roof and deck in there and then added some gardens and a waterfall. It's become an outdoor room providing a calm eye in our windswept yard. Outsmarting myself by trying to make the fence extra sturdy, I notched the 4X4 posts and the 2X4 cross-members so they fit together like a finely mitred joint. The first good breeze snapped off four posts at the notches, but at least the pickets didn't blow away. The fence has held up fairly well for the five years since, but just a couple months ago two other sections broke off. My war with the wind continues.

I first met the Colorado wind in 1976 when I moved to Strasburg, a town east of Denver. The dust picked up from freshly plowed wheat fields stormed the apartment in March. Little tracks of dirt led to slight cracks around the doors and windows. My sheets, pillows, and even the toothbrush in the bathroom were filled with grit. Somehow, the difference in air pressure even pushed streams of fine clay into the refrigerator.

I know the wind is caused by air moving from high pressure to low pressure or from updrafts off sun baked earth or down drafts from hail-laden thunderheads. Those move all over and I feel the wind blowing from different directions at different times. Occasionally, it swirls in all directions. That makes me wonder why the stuff that blows away never blows back into my yard. The folk singer in me suspects the answer is blowing in the wind.