Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: In winter, days hint at spring

Several years ago, while musing on the ideal gift guide for men, I mentioned that no self-respecting male can ever have enough duct tape. I’ve used it to mend camping tents, book bindings, shovel handles or even, in a pinch, the stick shift of a riding lawnmower. I’ve never taped a single duct with duct tape, but in other ways large and small, the silver-gray adhesive has kept my world together.

I have an artist friend who used duct tape to seal his torn trousers before heading to the office, but that story, I’m afraid, will have to wait for another day.

My oldest sister, learning of my reliance on duct tape, graced me with several rolls of it in novelty colors as a gag gift. I stowed the spools in the shed as a conversation piece, confident that I would never use them. I didn’t want talk around the neighborhood about the judgment of a man who would grab pink duct tape to answer an emergency.

But with age, I have found, pride often takes a backseat to convenience. Earlier this month, while binding foam insulation around my garden pipes in advance of a hard freeze, I realized that I was out of regular duct tape. Rather than brave rush-hour traffic to get a fresh supply, I decided to use the least flamboyant roll of my sister’s duct tape that I could find.

That’s how the hose spigot in my front yard came to wear bold zebra stripes from top to bottom.

The first hard freeze lifted nearly two weeks ago, but the faucet still sports its safari attire, ready for the next winter evening when the mercury drops to the danger zone.

From a distance, the faucet’s striped neck looks like the head of an animal figure in a fairgrounds carousel. It’s a vivid reminder of the frigid days we endured in the second full week of January, an arctic blast quickly muted by climbing temps.

As the weather warmed, and the hard, cold sky melted into moderate rains, we took the refugee plants that had waited out the freeze in our living room and returned them to the yard, allowing them to be nourished by the afternoon showers.

Back outside went the huge agave cactus that my wife got for Christmas, along with the Leyland cypress, still in its pot, that we bought at a farmers market last month.

Some weekend soon, after another rain returns and softens the ground, we’ll plant our new treasures in a permanent home.

Bags of potting soil lie against the porch post along with a bale of straw, poised for a warm morning when the garden calls.

We’ve had other cold days since the Polar Vortex chilled our neighborhood, but even the hardest winter in south Louisiana isn’t harsh enough to bury the promise of spring very far from the surface. As I write this, a new seed catalog rests near my keyboard. Its cover boasts a big tomato that floats in the center of the page like an April sunrise. I can taste that tomato now, as I can taste the season to come.