Weeds: Why do we stay here?

You know it’s coming. Someday soon, you’ll wake up and the funster radio guy will be playing, “In the lane, snow is glistening, a beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight” You don’t even have to look out the window; you know what’s out there. Winter. You mutter at the radio, “Shut. Up.”

Oh, it’s pretty. Everything coated with sparkling, pristine white a treacherous layer of glare ice underneath provided you can see out the window in the whiteout conditions. It’s pretty all right. IF YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO OUTSIDE FOR THREE MONTHS!

I know, I know. It keeps the riff-raff away. The riff-raff that’s walking around in a t-shirt in 80 degree sunshine. The riff-raff that’s lying on a beach somewhere, lime daiquiri in hand. When did the riff-raff signup sheet go around, and how did I miss it?

We all know the sad truth, even if we don’t talk about it. The smart people all left. Go ahead, delude yourself if you want. Nature throws a big ol’ curveball at our head each year; we’re the ones who don’t know enough to get out of the way.

Our ancestors had an excuse. Some slimy land agent told them that Minnesota was just like Europe with its wussy winters. After one winter here, the smart ones kept right on going to California. The dim ones said, “Hey, that waren’t so bad!” Yep, you’re descended from them.

As a matter of fact, scientists are beginning to see disturbing signs among us hardy Minnesotans. Until now, evolution has always selected the brainy members of our race over the brawny ones. The ones with higher intelligence invented tools; those deficient in gray matter kept trying to do things with rocks. Big, dumb guys with rocks might survive a couple of generations, but eventually they’re going to face extinction.

Here in the north, it appears we are entering a sort of reverse-evolution. The brainy ones leave, and the brawny ones survive. Heck, the brawny ones thrive in these wretched conditions. They even have off-spring, little brawny ones. Scientists now believe that in a century or so, Minnesota will be populated by Neanderthal-like creatures. Picture Big FootsBig Feetwhatever. They will communicate by a series of grunts and gestures. If you doubt this alarming trend, just go talk to your teenager.

See. Scary, huh?

Speaking of teenagers, my son got his license last March, just as winter ended. After nine months of driving, he is used to being able to see out the windshield, have the vehicle go the direction he steers, and use brakes to slow the car. HA! Winter will quash those silly notions.

Being a teenage boy, he wears a light jacket, no matter the conditions. Fifty degrees and a breeze, a light jacket. Thirty below and a howling Alberta Clipper, a light jacket.

That’s probably a reaction to our dressing him for winter when he was a little kid. Like all good parents of the Northland, we put six or seven layers on him. Then we wrapped him in a bulbous, puffy down snowsuit with scarf, hat, face mask, gloves inside of mittens, multiple socks, and lined boots. Then it was off to the great outdoors. Sometimes he could see.

If he ever fell on his back, there was no way he was going to get himself up. The good news is that little kids can survive for a couple days in their winter clothing capsule. It helps that massive consumption of Halloween candy added a critical layer of protective fat. If on the other hand, you ate your kid’s treats, your child is in grave danger.

Of course winters were worse when we were young. Everything was worse when we were young, and we deserve a lot of credit just for surviving. Ferocious winters lasted from September to May. Sometimes winter lasted the whole year. To make things worse, school closings hadn’t been invented yet. I remember heading off to school in a blizzard, getting disoriented, and ending up at school in Springfield or Comfrey.

We didn’t have much for entertainment options back then either. We were on a party line, and internet service was brutally slow. If the Pelzels were watching a cat video, it might take us an hour to download the latest Elmer Scheid hit. About the only thing we could count on for amusement was watching the Vikings lose the Super Bowl. That got old fast.

(Hmm, I have a problem here. Not that I ever make anything up. But let’s just say the following is really, REALLY true.) Some of you remember the Blizzard of 1975. It was January, and I was home from college. The electricity went out, but we had to keep the fans running in our chicken barn and milking equipment working for the cows. We had an IH 400 tractor hooked to a generator giving us power. I remember walking across the giant snow drift that filled the yard and digging down to get to the gas barrel to fill a gas can. Then I had to walk back across the yard and dig down to the tractor to pour gas into fuel tank.

Winters are easier now than those vaunted winters of yore. Global warming? Too many Iowans moving here? Hot air from the proliferation of meteorologists? Whatever, the chill-to-the-bone winters of my youth don’t come around as much.

There is a downside to our softer winters. You town people aren’t aware of this, but you need to find out sometime. Farm folk began noticing these along the edges of the grove a few years ago. Now they seem to be moving into the yard. Brace yourself: snow mosquitoes!

Incredibly, these snow mosquitoes have adapted to our shifting climate; they are a close relative to our summer mosquitoes. Most disturbing is that they have long, hard proboscises that can penetrate layers of wool, cotton, and even Thinsulate. If you do get bit, good luck trying to scratch. I don’t want to scare you, but they’re out there. Some of you are doubting me, but this is really true.

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