My friend Lois says it’s time to ditch the long-running Official Davis City Motto contest and she has a startling suggestion as to what I should replace it with.
Citing the esteemed “Science Times” section of The New York Times, Lois raves about “a wonderful essay about naming winds.”
Yes, she wants me to write about wind.
“This is the stuff of a good column,” she goes on, without offering to write the column for me.
“What caught my eye,” she goes on, “was a paragraph about Portland, where there was a contest to name the east wind that comes through the Columbia River Gorge.”
Ah yes, I know that wind well. Roars down the gorge all the way to Portland, scaring spawning salmon and sending young children into the arms of their parents as it plunges temperatures to well below freezing in a matter of hours.
Noted the Science Times in its breezy style: “A 1997 contest in Portland, Ore., that might today be mistaken for an episode of ‘Portlandia,’ invited suggestions for the ‘cold and crazy’ east wind from the Columbia River Gorge.”
Turns out the winner was “Coho; memorable losers included Columbia Screamer, Brutal Bellows and Big Bad Momma.”
With entries like that, no wonder Coho was the winner, given that the Coho is a well known variety of salmon and the Mighty Columbia is historically one of the great salmon rivers of the Pacific Northwest.
“Forget the motto,” Lois pleads. “What do we name the north wind that brings dust, PM 10, 2.5s and 5s, and wheezing to our town, but also brings us a glimpse of the Sierra? We have named the Delta Breeze, but what about that north wind?”
Well, the Official City Motto contest will remain open after producing such memorable entries as “Davis: More Nuts than Winters” and “Davis: Gateway to Woodland,” but Lois’ point has considerable merit.
After all, Southern California has those howling and regionally famous Santa Ana winds that seemingly start brush fires all by themselves as they roar westward from the desert to the ocean.
And the intermountain states are famous for their Chinooks — yet another brand of salmon — that have been known to raise the temperature by more than 100 degrees in a 24-hour period. (Disbelievers can look it up: from 48 below to 54 above on Jan. 15 of 1972 in tiny Loma, Mont.)
Folks in the East Bay brag about their “Diablo” winds, Alaska has its “Matanuska” winds and the famed Aleutian “Williwaw,” while New England has its “Nor’easters,” mostly because folks in that part of the country can’t pronounce “north.”
So the message is clear. If we wish to retain our title as the City of All Things Right and Relevant, we really must give our famously ferocious north wind a name other than the direction it comes from. A name as classy as Chinook, Santa Ana, Nor-easter or Williwaw.
Natives of Yolo County know that a south wind brings cooling in summer and rain in winter, while a north wind can be dry and cold or dry and hot, depending on the time of year.
When it comes to sheer velocity, however, the Delta Breeze is no match for the branch-crushing power of the north wind that blows unimpeded from Redding south, frequently firing up in the middle of the night.
If you’ve lived here long enough, you can be indoors, snug in your bed, and know instinctively from which direction the wind is blowing based on which neighbor’s tree rattles first.
When I was a kid, if it blew from the north in the fall, we called it a Black Walnut Wind because it brought down the tasty native nuts that we could scoop up with our buckets and sell downtown for a dollar a gunnysack. As historic as the name is, though, I’ll admit it’s not very sexy.
So I’ll turn it over to you, the same folks who came up with the very clever “More Nuts than Winters.”
Name the north wind. Our town’s reputation depends on it.
— Reach Bob Dunning at firstname.lastname@example.org