Whatís the use of living in the South if all of a sudden ice starts dropping out of the sky?

I mean, please. Hail the size of marbles on a Friday afternoon? And that storm that passed over Franklin didnít even touch Charenton and Centerville, or so Iím told.

Iím sitting here in the office, waiting for knocking off time, when it sounds like somebody hit the jackpot on a gumball machine into a galvanized pail. The runs to the front door and sure enough, white globs of ice are quickly blanketing the street.

This is not why I live in the South.

Chitimacha belief has it that hail is the method by which the Creator restocks the waters. Each hail is the carrier of a little water creature Ė fish, clam, crawfish, whatever Ė and when people get to eating too many of them, the Man Upstairs has to put some back.

I think thatís pretty neat, but that doesnít explain to what is in the hail that hits the ground and melts.

HmmÖmaybe it does, since crawfish make tunnels in the ground and tadpoles grow up in mud puddles, things like that. Fine, the Indians knew what they were talking about.

Then we get this screwy week. High of 65 Monday. 75 on Tuesday. 57 on Wednesday. 71 on Thursday. 52 on Friday. Itís like somebodyís setting the weather pattern while theyíve got a bad case of the hiccups.

And itís only January.

Itís the South for cryiní out loud. If I have to put up with dastardly politics, sub-standard quality of living, being the joke of the rest of the nation and being first in all the bad things and last in all the good things when they rate the states, I at least want to be warm when I do it.

Though itís too far ahead to be sure, the forecast for Mardi Gras Day is 70 degrees, with a 40 percent chance of rain.

Swell.

As you know, I am not a big fan of Mardi Gras mostly due to the fact that I have to work for the parade, and also because we didnít celebrate Fat Tuesday on the Rez near as I can recall. At least not at my house. If my dad was off work, and the weather was warm, we were fishing. If it was cold, we found something else to do, but I donít think I knew what Mardi Gras was until I went to junior high school, and have felt somewhat perplexed and bemused by the whole thing all these years since.

The notion of Mardi Gras on February 5 is just insane. I looked it all up, and I wonít pretend I understand all this astronomy stuff about the vernal equinox and full moons and such, but Mardi Gras on February 5 and Easter on March 23 is just not right. Thanksgiving is in November, Christmas is in December, Mardi Gras is in March and Easter is in April, end of story. I just donít see the need to go throwing it around all over the place willy-nilly like.

But perhaps thereís a good side to all that. My father always told me the fish would start biting after Easter, and that I could plant my tomatoes after that, too, because there was sure to be no more frost.

I donít know if thatís true. I find my pecan trees to be more reliable indicators of the possibility of frost. My pecan trees donít bud until they are sure winter is done. My fig tree, on the other hand, buds when the temperature hits 70 degrees and promptly gets the tender green newcomers nipped off by the next plunge into sub-freezing conditions. Fig trees are dumb, but figs make great cookies.

The South isnít supposed to be this cold. Hail on a Friday afternoon, jeesh. What next, a blizzard on St. Patrickís Day? Make sure your coats are green so you donít get pinched. Hurts more when its cold!

Rain just makes a bad situation miserable. And have you ever noticed that no matter which way youíre walking Ė house to car, car to office, mailbox to door, whatever Ė the wind is blowing in precisely the correct direction to flip your umbrella up into a sno-cone?

I hate trying to get into a car with an umbrella. No matter how quick you think you can be, youíll never get it closed in time with the door open and get the door shut before the whole inside of the door is covered with water. At least, I canít.

I gave up on those dinky little toy umbrellas everybody carries nowadays. You know the ones they introduced in the 1970s or so in one of those fast-paced television commercials where a screaming, breathless announcer sells you on how itís so convenient, so handy, so much better than those big bulky umbrellas of Gene Kellyís day. At first, you couldnít get them locally ("Not available in stores! Call now!") but then they started showing up on the shelves ("As Seen On TV!") and though they boasted sophisticated-sounding names like "Rainguard" or "Sunny Day" or "Shed-A-Storm" they were secretly made by K-Tel or Ronco ("Umbrell-O-Matic!")

No, give me a Winston Churchill umbrella, thank you very much. Might still flip over in a really stout wind, but in a windless rainstorm I can keep myself and most of my friends dry, and jump off a building and float safely to the ground if I need to.

I was never a fan of rain coats. In my day, rain coats were made of the same plastic they made potato chip bags out of, and you creaked and crackled when you walked. Sounded like a herd of Ruffles coming down the road when you approached. And hot! You got just as wet from sweat as if you just stood out in the rain with no rain coast. I understand they make far, far better rain gear nowadays, breathable stuff, too. I donít know how they do that, but I guess I ought to try it sometimes. I just donít like the idea of my clothing "breathing." Sounds way more intimate than I want to be with my rain coat.

Now, a good water-repellent fedora is a nice item to have. Couple that with a good umbrella roughly the size of car, and youíre safe and dry.

UhmÖnow, what was I talking aboutÖ?