So, when this wretched winter started six months ago, I had big plans for the season. I intended to organize my farm records, read the collected works of G. K. Chesterton, and memorize Paul's Letter to the Romans. Then Global Darkening set in, inspiration flew, and I find myself drinking beer, eating chips, and watching cat videos.
I've survived 57 winters, but this one's getting awfully long. The yard iced up early and never melted. The only way to walk across it is with tiny, mincing steps. If you attempt to run, you throw your shoulders out ahead of your tiny steps. You, in fact, look like a penguin. My appreciation for the athleticism of penguins has increased many-fold.
I carry water in five-gallon pails to our horses in the winter. At least once a winter I like to wipe out in their pen, completely dousing myself in water, bits of frozen manure clinging to me. Usually I lie there a minute or two reflecting on my life. Cub and Montana, the horses, come over to sniff me. In horsey-talk they say they don't understand why humans do the things they do.
As I get older, more folks I know spend winter in warm places. You know who you are, sitting there poolside, reading the hometown paper. I thought of you the other day.
I thought of you when I went to plug in the tractor at 5:00 in the morning and had to walk across a massive drift in our yard that was over my waist and snow got in my boots and then the tractor wouldn't start so of course the battery charger was in the other shed and I had to crawl across the drift again and when I finally did get the tractor to start the heater didn't work well in the 50 below wind chill and by now every appendage on my body was numb.
I thought you of the other day. And, well, I hate you.
Oh, we'll get through this. Besides cat videos, we have other ways to survive till spring arrives sometime in June. There's always television. My attention-deficit brain does not allow me to sit through commercials, so I watch public television.
I am a fan of Frontline. Frontline begins with dark, foreboding music as they pan the skyline of someplace that's in a world of hurt. Or it will be when Frontline's reporters get through with it. Then, they film someone doing regrettable things with a little hidden camera attached to someone's lapel. The best part comes when they interview the person who did the regrettable deed. He denies that he would ever do such a thing, and then they show him video of him doing such a thing. I gotta get me one of those cameras!
After Frontline comes the BBC World News. Their announcers have these great accents; it's like they all just stepped out of Downton Abbey. BBC claims to cover the whole world. But I'm pretty sure they make up countries. Burkina? Kyrgyzstan? C'mon. The weirdest part of their news is when they report on the United States. That's a little like your neighbor coming over and telling you what's wrong with your kid. And you think, "Don't you have enough of your own problems to worry about?"
Of course, there's more to do than watching TV on these frigid winter nights. For as long as there's been winter, people have snuggled together under blankets and shared a little body heat. Heh-heh, if you know what I mean.
(EXPLICIT CONTENT DELETED FROM THIS EDITION. Ed. note: This was certainly the most interesting paragraph this columnist has ever written. But for the sake of our readers with young children, it could not be printed here. You can pick up an uncensored copy of The Journal at our office in New Ulm. You will need a permission slip from your spouse and/or your doctor if you are over fifty.)
Speaking of sex (Ed. note: He was.), when I was young, sex was something that happened between a guy and a girl and sometimes you had babies. How dull was that? Hoo boy, have things changed! Now, there are all sorts of possibilities we never imagined.
There was one time we did contemplate an alternative sexuality. My sophomore year at St. Mary's High School, a group of us boys were sitting together in the library. We were quietly studying when one of the town kids excitedly showed us something he found in some ancient psychology book. Therein was a matter-of-fact reference to the fact that many boys raised on farms had sex with animals.
You can imagine the ruckus that caused. Dear old Sister Grace, the librarian, had to come over to quiet us down. The town kids had the ultimate weapon in the teasing that went back and forth between them and us farm kids. That haunted us poor abused farm boys all through sophomore year. Years later, Bill Clinton-like, I can assure you that "I did not have sexual relations with that animal."
Speaking of odd behaviors, there's nothing wrong with a little psychotic behavior in the midst of a winter like this. Being a little nuts just might be the edge you need. Or as my buddy Eminem says, "I'm friends with the monster that's under my bed. Get along with the voices inside of my head."
For my own particular manic act, I like to get up late at night and dash naked out in the yard when it's below zero. (CONTENT DELETED FROM THIS EDITION. Ed. note: The Journal wanted to save our readers from an image in their mind that we wouldn't wish on our worst enemy. The balance of this paragraph is NOT in our uncensored edition. We have some taste around here.)