First Things

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Memories Of A Former Kid

“Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation.” – Sinclair
Lewis

My routine departure from the house is conducted at 90 miles an
hour; race out the door, slide down the steps, jump in the car,
throw it in reverse and peel out. Standard operating procedure,
however, changes dramatically at this time of year. Here in the
Midwest, you’re a darn fool if you hustle over ice-coated steps.
You’re a bigger fool if you try to drive without clearing the
frost-covered windshield, and nothing less than a menace to society
if you speed on snow-packed roads.

So it is that we slow down and yield to old man winter. Still,
we tend to think we’ve outwitted the old coot, as we dress in
hightech outerwear, insulate the house, gab about in four-wheel
drive vehicles and de-ice jet aircraft. Even the dog’s water bowl
is freeze proof! But that supreme mortal confidence fades quickly
in the face of one prolonged power outage.

I’ve been thinking lately of the way people operated in winters
of a century ago, before rural electrification, before
thermostat-controlled furnaces, before state crews plowed the
roads. In those days, winter truly was a full-time job. The very
prospect of keeping a home warm, roads open, and livestock feed and
sheltered gives pause to anyone who’s come of age in this very
modern world.

It was work, plain and simple, with none of the conveniences we
enjoy today. Wood was cut and hauled repeatedly; fires built and
banked around the clock. Kerosene lamps brightened dark nights, but
fragile glass chimneys demanded constant cleaning. Those who worked
outside felt the cold most keenly: Can you imagine colder work than
that of a commercial ice harvesting operation? Conducted on a lake
or pond shore in the coldest part of winter the work offered a
knock-out punch both cold and wet.

Even with today’s technology, winter north of the Mason-Dixon
Line remains a bit of a job. As we soldier on in the Midwest, we
think of our snow-bird friends in the south. Your senses may be
dulled by relentless warm air and sunshine. You may not remember
what you are missing. This little reminder of the northland is
offered as a special service. To those who yearn for what the
weather man calls “a wintery mix”: warm greetings from the
north!

Leslie McManus, Editor
lmcmanus@ogdenpubs.com

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment