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home : columnists : columnists October 20, 2014

1/31/2014 8:16:00 AM
Bits from Betsy

We were better off before we knew about wind chill. I've been a resident of Minnesota for more than forty years now, so while I am not FROM here, I think my extended stay gives me the right to speak of the weather.

My first winter here was '69-'70. Not a record year for cold or snow. When the first snowfall came around Thanksgiving, I said goodbye to the ground and accepted my fate, knowing I was heading into unknown territory of snowy roads, frozen water pipes and big coats. My dear Daddy even sent me an L.L. Bean parka lined with some sort of animal fur because he was absolutely sure I would freeze to death.

I expected the snow to get to the depths detailed in the Laura Ingals Wilder books. Back in those days, Pa Ingals would tunnel out to the barn through 50-foot drifts and tie a string on little Laura so she could be reeled back if she ventured out of sight.

My hubby of one year and I were living in a tiny little house that had been moved to the country for his grandmother. He was a country boy and couldn't adjust to life as a towny, in spite of 4 years as a U.S. Marine. He handled the jungles of Vietnam but an apartment in downtown Red Wing made him a little crazy.

Our country estate was not exactly my idea of a dream house. It had three rooms, no bathroom and no running water. Let's just say this about it - most women would not have lived in such a place. We shared it with rodents, raccoons, snakes and bees.

Winter in our little love nest was a challenge. The first winter, the well pump lived in an insulated wooden box in the back yard and froze up on a regular basis. We added a bathroom and kitchen on the back of the house and with no central heat, the walls of the shower would be frosty on cold mornings.

Heat came from a propane space heater that had a hard time staying lit. Often we would wake up during the night to a cold house and would need to re-light the heater.

Winter wasn't fun, but at least the weather forecasters weren't the fear mongers they are now. They told us the real temperature and that it might be windy. We were able to figure out for ourselves that those two elements combined meant discomfort. We knew we could freeze if we ran around naked in the cold, and generally, we didn't do that!

Were winters worse back in the old days? I don't want to head into that global warming discussion. Leave that to the scientists and Mr. Wizard. If they say we are warming up, we must be warming up.

The best we can do is button up our overcoats, put on a hat despite what it does to the hair-do, wear mittens and cuddle up with the cats.

Thanks to the highway maintenance folks and those who plow and shovel snow. You do a great job helping us get where we need to go. A remote car starter is a good thing . . . heated seats will be a requirement for my next vehicle.

I'm not as tough as I was back in '69!



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