AMEND CORNER: Spring, memory and the cost of gasoline


Spring started last week, and I missed it.

It never occurred to me last Wednesday that it was the first day of spring. That isn’t surprising, because I’m not much for celebrating, or even remembering individual days of the year. There are a few that are really important, like Christmas, Easter, Memorial Day and my wedding anniversary, but nearly all of them are hard to forget, thanks to advertising and the various sights and sounds that go along with those days. Fortunately, one of those important days, Thanksgiving, happens around the date of my wife’s birthday, so I rarely forget to acknowledge that one.

As for the rest, well, I’m not so good about recognizing them. During my first year as a teacher, I opened a letter from my mother one day and found a birthday card with my name on it. There was a note apologizing because she hadn’t mailed it in time for it to arrive on my birthday. My birthday had completely slipped my mind, and if I can forget my own birthday, I can certainly forget the vernal equinox.

On the other hand, something that happened last Wednesday should have told me that spring had arrived in Powell because similar events commonly happen around this time every year. As you know, spring days often feature temperatures that range from cool (if not actually frigid) in the morning, and then creep up all day until you begin to wonder why you wore a sweater when you left home that morning.

This temperature change causes problems for me. I’m a guy who would rather be cool than hot, so even on a cold morning, I don’t like to wear anything too warm. In times gone by, I dealt with that temperature change by dressing to be comfortably cool during the warmest hours of the day, knowing that I might be uncomfortable until those warm hours arrived. Sometimes I might even do the sensible thing and put on a jacket.

In recent years, I have been far more inclined to do the sensible thing, because the metal installed in my back a few years ago seems to enjoy soaking up the cool temperatures and intensifying them, thereby tuning my backbone into an icicle. So, when I leave the house on a cool spring morning I wear the jacket most appropriate to the temperature, and take it off when I reach my destination. Then, after an hour spent worshipping in church, visiting the Tribune office or satisfying my attachment to caffeine at the coffee shop, I return home, leaving my jacket behind.

Normally, I realize my error when I reach home, but occasionally it takes longer. Such was the case last week when I visited the machines down at the therapy place for a bit of wellness exercise. The next morning, while preparing to go downtown, I couldn’t find my jacket. Within seconds, I realized that my jacket was still hanging at the therapy place, and changed my route so I could retrieve it.

It’s no coincidence that I forgot my jacket on Wednesday, March 21. Forgetting my jacket — or in some years, my heavy coat — is in fact a pretty reliable harbinger of spring. It is at least as accurate as the blooming of the first crocus, and way more reliable than that groundhog’s shadow.

And come next September, I’m sure a similar incident will tell me that autumn has arrived. In fact, I can count on it.

Something else we’ve been able to count on in recent months doesn’t have anything at all to do with spring. That’s the price of gasoline. It seems as though the price of filling your tank has stayed just shy of $2.50 per gallon for quite a while.

Recently, though, something has changed down in south Big Horn County, or at least in the town of Greybull. Last week, gasoline prices dipped below $2 per gallon, although not much below: Two dealers had set their pumps to dispense regular fuel for $1.999 per gallon.

If you have ever driven through Greybull, you probably noticed there are two convenience stores right next to each other along North 6th Street, just south of the high school and grade school. One of those stores (which usually sets its price 2 cents lower than any other place in town) has been closed while the company tore it down and replaced it with a fancy new building. Now it has reopened and dropped its price to celebrate. The other store then matched their price and eventually the price dropped below $2.

That might be good news, but from my experience, it’s a pretty wimpy price war. When I lived down in Evanston back in the late ’60s, a gallon of gas over in Ogden, Utah — about an hour away on I-84 — dropped to 20 cents, thanks to a gas war. Since the price in Evanston hovered around 45 cents nearly all the time, a guy could actually drive to Ogden, fill up his tank, drive home and actually save money.

That wasn’t the best gas deal I ever saw, though. About that same time, we took a trip to Arkansas, and somewhere in the middle of Kansas, I filled my tank for 15 cents a gallon.

This raises a question: If I can remember what I paid for gas more than 50 years ago, why can’t I remember to bring my jacket home?