“For the Altitude We Have Received, We Thank Thee”

I am writing this column a bit early this week—mostly as a defensive measure. As long as I’m writing, I’m under air conditioning. And I’m not mowing the second half of my yard.

I mowed the first 5000 square yards of my yard this morning, but then I had a noon meeting. Since it’s 103 degrees now, I’m willing to wait until later to finish.

The legendary David “Davy” Crockett had already served in the U.S. Congress (from Tennessee), but he lost the 1835 election and famously fired a verbal volley toward the fools who failed to again elect him: “You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas.” This summer, my own feeling is that no choice is required. We can easily do both at the same time. Sometimes things just work out.

That said, I am willing to wait to mow the little chunk of Texas in my vicinity until the hellish temperatures abate just a bit later this evening. One of the nicest features of this region of Texas is that “high plains” are, well, high. Altitude, I’ve decided, is a gift from God. I think also, as I cast my eyes over toward my friends and faithful readers in New Mexico, that mountains and snow are among God’s best gifts, and the real deals require what? Say it together in an attitude of praise to the Almighty, truly the “Most High”: ALTITUDE! (Okay, for purists, I just mention that in this column, I’m using “altitude” and “elevation” pretty much interchangeably, and I’m not distinguishing between “true” altitude, “absolute” altitude, etc. It matters not much here. But it matters a lot if you’re flying a plane.)

In Muleshoe, Texas, where I live, affectionately known as the Greater Muleplex, our altitude is 3800 feet. It’s roughly 70 miles down to Lubbock. I still consider that a (truly boring) trip, though most of our citizens make the trek more often than they change their minds. Make that trip, and you’ll descend to 3200 feet. Keep on heading down—say, on down U.S. Hwy 84 to Post, Texas—and you will have dropped off the Caprock Escarpment (the “Cap”) and managed to lose 600 more feet (down to 2600).

People have gone farther down and survived. Right after our son Jeff went to play college football in Abilene, we called to ask how it was. He said that the level of intensity was definitely high, but, physically, anyone who could survive a Coach David Wood (Muleshoe) workout could survive any workout. But, he said, “the humidity is killing me.” He was still in Texas, but he’d descended much closer to the other option Davy Crockett had mentioned.


You may have noticed that Texas towns/cities list their populations—not their elevations—on their signs. I’ve thought about this. I could be wrong, but I think it’s because most below-the-Cap Texas towns feel some inherent shame in being low-lyers. It’s bad theology—yea, verily, mistaken theology—and it makes no sense at all, really, but I think that deep down they just feel that they must have done something morally wrong to be consigned to the desperately altitudinally challenged nether regions of the state.

It’s like the guy who slips on the ice (oh, heavenly thought, ice!) and straightway opines through his moans, as a bone sticks out through his shin, “Aw, *!@*d^, I wonder what I did to deserve that!?” The rational answer is almost always, nothing really. Ah, but, unbidden, we say it, thereby saying more than we mean to say.

So, conversely, be assured, dear friends who may be consigned to the nether regions in the present heat wave, that I’m aware it’s no moral superiority that allows my neighbors and me to at least experience, even though it is presently 103, some significant cooling down after sundown. We’ll drop into the low 70s sometime after midnight and, for a few hours at least, it will make a little less sense to rush into going berserk because of the heat.

I know. We’re short of scenery here. We’re mostly dry, often-airborne dirt with some scorched and drought-stricken crops scattered around. But at least up here we get a wee bit of daily relief in the evenings.

I’ve managed now to put off lawn-mowing long enough to catch maybe a 10-degree break before I fire up the mowing machine.

Yes, friends, that’s the blessing of altitude. Doubt I can pull it off, but I sure would like to import some more of it. Bring in a mountain or two. And way more snow. If I can figure that out, I intend to propose listing the newly-inflated elevation prominently on our town’s sign. Along with a big thermometer so we can watch the evening temps drop even more quickly.

If that happens, I’ll probably need the Lord’s help to watch my attitude—about my altitude.

Copyright 2023 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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