Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Winter of Discontent

So long, winter. Buhbbye now! Don’t let the screen door hit you.
What in the wide-wide world of sports was that all about? Twenty below…in Arkansas? Two feet of snow? Are you kidding me?

One day, back in 1983, I pulled a big U-Haul truck into the driveway of our house on State Street and hurriedly loaded up all our earthly belongings, then stood our three-year-old son up in the front seat (it wasn’t dangerous back then, apparently) and mama followed us in the black Lincoln to Springdale. It was only a two hundred mile trip, and we had made it many times before to visit my folks.

A few months later, the three of us were sitting in a McDonalds in Siloam Springs when we looked out the window to see silver dollar snowflakes floating to the ground. She wasn’t particularly happy with me anyway - after moving her away from Batesville, and her family – and by this time we had encountered many domestic battles within the confines of our little duplex across the street from where they parked the chicken trucks. This time, she didn’t raise her voice. She just calmly looked across the table, over the cheeseburgers and the pile of salty fries, and said “You’ve moved me to the end of the world.”

Of course, I laughed. And then she did as well. We weren’t that far from home. Two hundred miles west and only a couple of inches north looking at the road map. Still in the same state, for cryin’ out loud! There was no way this short distance, in the grand scheme of things, could have any effect on the experiences we would have with weather. This was only a badly-timed coincidence.

I believe it was two nights after that, with the snow blanketing everything outside, the three of us, plus Parvo the Boston Terrier, Jinglebell the kitten, and Molly the Cockatiel, huddled in a makeshift tent in front of the living room fireplace to keep warm after the power had gone out. The ambient air temperature was around zero, but the wind was howling, and they told us on the battery-operated radio that the wind chill was in the neighborhood of forty below zero. Just after hearing that, there was a loud roar and I realized we were having a flue fire. I grabbed the folding insurance adjuster ladder and scurried up on the roof to throw snow down the chimney. No way to use the water hose.

That managed to get the fire out, but the black water rolled over the hearth and soaked the floor. Instead of thanking me for saving his duplex, the landlord sent me a bill for replacing the carpet. Sweetheart, he was.

We all survived. And over the last 28 years I’ve used that winter as the standard by which all others are judged. Until now.

There wasn’t much wind with this one, but the actual temperature at our house got down to negative seventeen. There were no power outages – if only because the trees all broke and fell on the lines two years ago, and the two feet of snow was so dry, light and fluffy that it just rolled off the highline wires. But, come on. The same night we hit -17 here, and -30 in one nearby town in Oklahoma, it was only -34 in Antarctica. Antarctica!

This winter hit us on Wednesday. Today is Sunday. My IPod tells me it’s 54 degrees. That’s 71 degrees warmer than it was 4 days ago. The snow has all melted off the streets, at least, and Becky has the window open in the kitchen. No problems so far. No frozen pipes, flue fires or power outages. No landlord to send me bills for replacing carpet. We’ve grown somewhat accustomed to living in Minnesota – but then, I guess pretty much everybody in north Arkansas has.

The worst part of this one, for me at least, is listening to the same tired snarks about “global warming” from all the people who hear the words but really don’t understand the concept. I mean, it’s cute the first dozen or so times you hear it but, like the snow, it gets old pretty quick.

Spring’s a’comin’. I learned my lesson. I won’t be saying we’ll never get that cold again.