This one is for my family and friends in the east. We've got blue skies and promises of spring here in the high desert of southwest Idaho, while many are still battling snow and freezing temps on the other side of the country. This excerpt from Gold Pans and Iron Skillets is for you.
Winter survival is
not a Boy Scout Merit Badge. It is a fact of life that long winters must be
dealt with. There are a number of ways to do this ranging from hibernation to
leaving the country. Neither of these options is very practical as one is not a
bear, nor can the entire northern half of the country reside in Arizona.
Suggestion? Don’t beat winter, enjoy it!
In the land of the
Rocky Mountains in the winter there are two things a little girls needs—a pair
of ice skates and a pair of snow boots. Oh, and quite possibly a couple of
bread sacks to slip over her shoes enabling them to slide into her rubber snow
boots. Those were the days!
Water does freeze
and remain frozen long enough for outdoor ice skating entertainment. This can
be done on a designated ice rink provided by flooding a vacant lot, or by
skating on the frozen water remaining in the local irrigation canal, and
sometimes on the street if the snow has been packed hard enough! First, one
must don a coat, hat and mittens, then pull the bread sacks over her shoes, and
stomp them into her snow boots. Then sling a pair of ice skates over her
shoulder and brace to face the bitter cold outdoors.
If she is fortunate
the trek to the ice rink will be short as her nostrils begin to stick together
shortly after venturing outside. Upon reaching the rink she must locate a seat,
usually a log or rock, on which to perch while removing her gloves, snow boots,
bread sacks, and shoes. Then she must untie the knot joining her ice skate
strings together. At this point she may need to pause to insert fingers into
her mouth in order to thaw them enough to maintain dexterity. Inserting foot
into ice skate, she then laces her skate and secures it with a bow. Again, she
pauses for finger thawing then puts on the second skate. After skates are
secured she quickly inserts her hands into mittens and puts her shoes and sacks
into boots for safekeeping.
It is now time to
enjoy the ice. Wobbling carefully onto the rink she soon finds herself caught
up in the flow of skating traffic. So long as she remains upright and those
around her do the same, she will continue to move in a counter clockwise
direction, enjoying the glide of her skate blades across the ice. However, as
with any forward moving traffic, there is inevitably a crash. It may be self
inflicted or the result of another’s mishap, but the fall will come. If lucky,
her feet will come out from under her and she will land on the padded most part
of herself. Otherwise, her hands and knees will be the first to make contact
with the ice, causing excruciating pain! She will pause to inspect the ice for
indentations and cracks before returning to a standing position. When the joy
has been had and she can no longer feel the pain of cold in her fingers and
toes, it is time to return home. She must first remove her skates.
She removes her
mittens as finger thawing must once again take place. It is not as effective as
prior to skating for the girl is anxious to get home, and her fingers are much
more frozen. Hopefully, she did not tie her skate strings too securely. She
unlaces her skates and pries them from her frosty feet. Now, she must insert
same feet into chilly shoes, bread sacks, and rubber boots. This process takes
much longer than it did indoors prior to her skating venture. Her hands are
cold. Her feet are cold. Her shoes, sacks, and boots are cold, thus refusing to
slip easily into place. She attempts to tie her skate strings together, but
aborts the effort as her fingers are now curled into a scratching claw-like
position. She slowly pulls on her mittens, tucks an ice skate under each elbow,
and trudges home.
Upon returning home
the girl removes all of her outerwear and drops it conveniently just inside the
front door where it warms and pools thawed ice all over the floor. Nose
running, fingers stinging, and cheeks aflame, she heads immediately to the
kitchen sink where someone has convinced her that running her fingers under
cold water will warm them. When she can stand it no longer, she dries her
hands, as best she can given the fact that they are not very cooperative, and
proceeds to find some quiet indoor activity such as a nap.
(minus the skates) are required for snowman building, snow fort construction,
and snowball fights. The outdoor gear must be donned and the thawing process
occurs after the fun has been had.
What value this
outdoor activity? Exercise, fresh air, sunshine, all of which are key to a
healthy, happy existence. Esther swears that the winters she sent her children
outside to play each day, they never experienced colds or flu. We justify our
season ski passes as part of our overall health regimen. (Too bad the IRS
doesn’t see it that way.) And it works. We are happier and healthier because we
get out in it. Don’t ignore the cold. Don’t fight it. Embrace it. Experience
it. Enjoy it. And send me the money saved on doctor visits.