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Weeds: Hard to get started in this cold

A few times during our oddly moderate winter, I noticed Pam’s Toyota had a slight sluggishness when I started it. If you are a northerner, you notice those things. I was suspicious of the six-year-old battery.

Our winter is no longer “moderate.” Sure enough, after the car sat in below-zero temps, I went to start it Sunday and got a “ruhr, ruhr, ruh.” It was the sound of a car that had no intention of starting. A short time on a battery charger got it going. But now my concerns about that battery were less hypothetical. It couldn’t be trusted. Trust is essential in relationships, whether between man and woman, or man and machine.

Pam had to work Monday morning in New Ulm, so I lay in bed that night thinking of options. She could take the older vehicle that doesn’t really warm up and think unfriendly thoughts about her husband. Or she could take her Toyota that might start after sitting out all day. Or it might not, and she would think even unfriendlier thoughts about her husband. Neither of those sounded good. I have to live with this woman.

I decided on Plan C. Plan C was to get the old battery out with cold tools in the dim morning light, run to town when NAPA opened at 8:00, and try to get a new one installed before Pam had to leave at 8:30. Every part of the plan had to work well. I can’t remember the last time every part of a plan worked well. But with frosty fingers, I was able to get her off by 9:00. Frosty fingers being preferable to a frosty marriage.

Cars and trucks that start on deeply cold winter mornings are a blessing. A bowed head and a “Thank you God!” are called for. The Catholic Church has patron saints for all manner of difficult situations. We don’t have a patron saint of starting vehicles in bitter cold. That seems a void in the saintly register. Perhaps when we have a Canadian pope. Or Siberian.

I’d be willing to offer the name “St. Randy” to that unfilled role since there is currently no St. Randy. I have spent many winters trying to start things, so would qualify. Getting some of the old vehicles we’ve had to start counts as a miracle. But apparently there are background checks done in the process of naming a new saint, and those could be problematic. We’ll have to find some other unused name to bless this worthy cause. Maybe a St. Russ or St. Jeff.

All Minnesotans have bad memories of working with jumper cables in dreadful conditions. Red dead to red live; black live to black dead. Lighting up a cigarette is discouraged. Cursing isn’t helpful, but at least won’t cause an explosion.

Speaking of cursing, who invented the tiny battery posts screwed into the side of the battery with a quarter inch bolthead? Did it ever occur to this genius that the battery might need jumping someday? I try not to think ill of my fellow man. But this guy gets barbed thoughts his direction every time I have to hook up one of those mini-terminals. I say “guy” because I assume a woman would never invent something so dumb.

Getting cars to start is one thing. Getting ourselves to start at twenty-below isn’t easy either. Some part of you will be exposed when you step out the door. Eyelids hurt if it’s cold enough. Lips and tongue jell up at thirty-below. Noses fall off at forty-below. Gloves are great if you don’t have to do anything with your hands. Then, if you didn’t have to do anything, you would have stayed inside.

Taking care of animals is another layer of misery. Working on an outdoor hog waterer with ungloved hands in February is not fun. Waterers never have problems in July.

A more pleasant memory of livestock in the winter is bedding with straw. Given shelter out of the wind and a straw bed, animals make themselves quite comfortable. We made oat straw after the grain was harvested in summer. Part of the warming effect of straw comes from the fact that we baled and stacked it in when it was 100 degrees and muggy. Making those bales in the heat and spreading them in the cold is living in the seasons.

A couple times a winter, I pull out my dad’s Knipco kerosene heater to unthaw something. I learned to take it apart before turning it on, because the round housing is ideal mouse development property. My Knipco is fifty years old. Fifty years ago, subtlety wasn’t a thing. When you turn that baby on, it roars and blasts enough hot air to melt a small iceberg.

I looked it up once, and the average temperature around here for the whole year is about 50 degrees. Fifty is okay. We could live comfortably at that temperature. But would we want to? Average would be like the Twins finishing every season with 81 wins and 81 losses. Sure, we’d avoid those ugly years when they’re 30 games out by Labor Day. But there wouldn’t be a 1987 or 1991 with those stacks of memories. I guess we’ll take this week of frigid and a week of sweltering in July to make life interesting.

Speaking of average, there comes the time to set the thermostat before bed. Pam would like it at 90 and I’d like it at 50, so we set it somewhere in the middle. I get up early and turn it up for her. I know she dreads pulling covers back and stepping into chill air. One of these days I’m going to put the Knipco up in our bedroom and turn that on when I get up. She’d like that.

Last time I stepped outside and felt the life-sucking cold on my face, I had this thought. What if this is all a hoax? What if this weather is really the construct of MSM, Mainstream Meteorology? After all, how many times has your weatherman lied to you? It’s possible this is the latest working of the Deep-Frozen State. Or even that shady anarchist group Antifafreeze? CoolAnon is working on pulling back the curtain on this fraudulent weather. Stop the Cold!

Then again, maybe my brain has frostbite.

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