Just before I left for the Beltwide Cotton Conferences I got a news release regarding health problems from cold weather. The day it came in temperatures near Dallas hit 79 degrees. I spent the weekend doing yard work in short sleeves. I should have been fishing!

Temperatures just three days prior to receiving this information, however, had dropped to about 18 degrees, with a wind chill cold enough to put mortal fear into brass monkeys. So the news item was timely, since one can never be certain when Southwest weather will turn ugly.

Weather extremes can be hazardous. I tested my limits on heat exposure once and turned what should have been a pleasant July 4 jog through downtown Atlanta into a scary ambulance ride to the hospital, unaware of my own phone number, social security number or what my wife would do to me if our two-week vacation had to be aborted because of my stupidity.

I survived, both the heat problem and spousal retribution, wiser about heat stress symptoms from the experience. Hypothermia, the news release from the Texas Department of State Health Services noted, can be just as deadly. And, as mentioned above, cold weather hits this part of the country with amazing speed. Folks who spend a goodly amount of time outside, which includes most everyone who farms or ranches for a living, should prepare for cold weather and be aware of hypothermia symptoms: confusion, drowsiness, slurred speech, a drop in blood pressure, shallow breathing, and a pinkish tint to the skin. If you experience these symptoms or notice them in anyone else, seek medical attention immediately.

The Department of State Health Services also encourages folks to check on the elderly or ill during cold snaps. That's especially a good idea for those who live alone or in remote areas.

I prefer to stay inside near a good fire when it gets cold enough to worry about hypothermia, but we all have to move about occasionally. I've been guilty of fishing when I'd have sworn it was too cold to work outside. And I've gotten pretty cold several times, especially after falling in the river and filling up my waders. I always carry a set of dry clothes and have needed them more times than I like to admit.

Health Services recommends wearing several layers of loose-fitting clothing, mittens, a hat, and face cover in extreme cold. Stay dry — don't fall in rivers. Be aware of the wind. Windy conditions can cause wind chills far below freezing, health officials say.

Folks who drive through remote areas also should take precautions. Freak snowstorms and vehicle malfunctions are not uncommon. I always keep an extra jacket and a hat in my truck. It's not a bad idea to have a warm blanket as well. I usually have a bottle of water. I don't always keep a pack of crackers or energy bar with me, but that's a good idea, too.

Make sure to keep a flashlight with fresh batteries. I have a few tools, too, but I'd be hard pressed to repair my truck. I keep my cell phone charged, just in case I need to call for help.

I usually have a fly rod in my truck, too, but that's more likely to get me into trouble than out of it.

I'm sure other items should be part of a safety pack and I'm eager to add to the list. Meantime, stay safe!