Stephen F. Austin State University

'Stump-movers' and other East Texas weather (December 2011)

'Stump-movers' and other East Texas weather
By Van Craddock

"Looks like it's starting to clabber up," said the fellow, looking out a window at the darkening Gregg County sky.

Now, that might sound a little funny to some folks. If you're from Sandusky or Altoona or somewhere like that, that could have you running to Webster's to see what "clabber up" means. But I doubt you'd find it in there anywhere.

Weather has always played a big role in East Texans' conversations, ranking right up there with religion, politics and football (but not necessarily in that order). Because of its importance, down through the years East Texans have developed their own unique weather vocabulary.

When locals are discussing the weather, especially old-timers, you won't hear them talking about scattered thundershowers or high-pressure cells or any of those meteorological terms you hear on the 10 p.m. newscast. No sir.

Now, it might be a thunderstorm to the National Weather Service, but to lots of East Texans it's a "stump-mover" or a "chunk-floater" or a "gully-washer." As the fellow at the window told me, "Looks like we're in for a real fence-lifter." And he was right.

Sure enough, the sky did clabber up, a thunderstorm bigger 'n' Dallas rolled in, and we had a "sure-nuff goose drowner."

I remember one time a Longview friend told me a recent deluge had been a "clear-up shower." That meant it'd come down so hard it'd rained clear up to the front porch.

Just once, I'd like to hear the TV weatherperson quit talking about a "60 percent chance of rain" and a "stationary front over the Trans-Pecos Region." I'm not ever sure where the Trans-Pecos Region is located. After all, it hasn't come up in any of my conversations since I had sixth-grade geography. Rather, the weatherman should say something like:

"It's clouding up, folks, and it looks like it's going to rain knuckles and bullfrogs." Or maybe, "It'll be cold enough tonight to freeze the horns off a brass billy goat."

East Texans don't tune in the TV weathercast for wind-chill factors or how far the mercury is going to drop because they can't relate to that. But if you tell East Texans it's going to be "hog-killing" weather or that it's liable to "rain hub deep to a wagon wheel," then they'll know what you're talking about.

Instead of pollution indexes and pollen counts and upper-level troughs, we need to know if it's "fairing off" or if it'll be colder that a well-digger's, er, backside, or if we're going to have a red sunset. (As any East Texan knows, a red sunset usually precedes rain.)

But, alas, I'm afraid it'll be a cold day in August before we start hearing forecasts like that. Still, we can hope the TV weather will get a little more down-to-earth with an East Texas accent.

Of course, that's only if the Lord's willing and the creeds don't rise.