I woke up this morning to the startling revelation that sometime in the wee hours of the night January slipped away and that with the dawn's early gloom I was facing yet another February.

I started to call up the folks in charge of me (no not my wife, the folks at the home office who pretty much leave me alone) and ask if it would be all right if I just stayed in bed for a while. Say about 28 days. And then I remembered, Leap Year. This year February has 29 days, one more day of misery to endure before we get to March, no icon of virtuous climatic conditions itself but far and away better than miserable little February.

I am reminded that one of my grandsons has a birthday in February, February 11, to be exact, so I guess I'll get up and move around a bit that day, call the little tyke up and wish him a happy one and listen to his wonderful chatter for a bit.

By then February will be nearly half over and I'm booked to attend a meeting in South Padre Island later that week, so maybe I can fool my body and soul into believing that we've skipped across February and March and landed right smack in the middle of April, not the cruelest month by a long shot.

In February South Padre could be balmy and warm or breezy and cold. One never knows, but if there's even the slightest chance of traveling out of Dallas and into a wet, chilly, miserable adventure on the beach, that's probably what we'll have. I've been on Caribbean cruises in February with the prospect of snorkeling in the warm water bays. I developed so many chill bumps from the frigid water someone mistook me for a sea urchin.

And, even if the weather is good, at the end of the trip I'll have to head back to Dallas, back to what could be ice, snow, freezing rain, and burst irrigation pipes. (Three years in a row, I've had to replace an irrigation valve.)

February 19 also is a red-letter day. That's our Southwest Crops Production Conference, a meeting I always enjoy, because I have an opportunity to visit with a lot of Southern Plains folks I've gotten to know pretty well over the years.

The last two years the conference was accompanied by snow. It is, after all, held in February. If I look a bit bedraggled, just assume it's the month, not the company.

After the conference there's only (ONLY?) ten days left in the month. I may try to visit a few farms while I'm in the area. Maybe I can spend an hour or two in the freezing cold trying to focus a camera while my body shivers too hard to keep it still. As long as it's February I may as well subject myself to as much miserable weather as possible. Else I might get fooled again into believing February is benign.

I once planted a garden in February, on one of those warm days that make you think winter is over and that spring, for once, came early. I knew better. It was a rash moment. I think we had an ice storm the next day.

Last year my fishing buddy and I decided to try to locate and hoodwink some crappie in February. Weather report indicated temperatures would range in the mid to upper 60s. Winds would be calm. I believe the Old Farmer's Almanac's Solunar Tables indicated peak fish feeding would be around 10 AM. We hooked up the boat, launched at a nearby lake renowned for good crappie fishing and nearly froze to death trying to get from one side of the lake to the other.

We fished mostly with artificial lures that day and we kept the same one on as long as possible. There were excellent reasons for this strategy. We had bought some minnows, preferred bait for wintertime crappie, but our hands got so cold trying to catch them out of the minnow bucket we abandoned that idea fairly early in the day. Later we discovered that taking a lure off the line and then re-tying another was a bit more than two decrepit old geezers could manage while shaking as if they had the palsy.

We packed it in a bit earlier than usual that day. I think we abandoned the hopeless plight about 4:30 in the afternoon. I think I quit shivering about 5:30 the following day.

One positive point. No fish to clean. Actually, no fish to take off a hook with shivery fingers. Nada. Nothing. Not a bite. February fishing is hardly worth the effort. We did see an eagle, however. Unfortunately, he did not have a groundhog in his talons.

Consequently, by the time you read this, assuming you do, the groundhog will have consulted his inner weather channel and will probably have gone back to bed. Ah, to be a groundhog.