Winter Weather -- "Cold Enough For Ya?"
By Sam Johnson
More than the state of our nation and the economy, more than the
threat of nuclear war or the prospects of peace, even more than the latest
wranglings between Republicans and Democrats, no topic of conversation receives
more attention than the weather.
That’s because it’s a universal topic that everyone experiences,
everyone can relate to, and everyone can talk about, no matter what their
Actually, it’s understandable because everyone has an opinion on the
weather, and more often than not, we agree with one another -- no matter what
party or political persuasion we lean towards!
For example, just the other day while gassing up at a local gas station
and bait shop, I was asked my opinion about the weather by complete strangers
who were likewise gassing-up, and shivering and shaking in their boots while
waiting for the tank to fill:
“Boy, some kind of day out here, don’t you think?”
“What do you say, a little brisk out here or what?
“Sounds like we’re in for the big deep-freeze this weekend!”
There’s no better way to break the ice, get someone going, or just kill
a few minutes standing in line or waiting for a meeting to start, than to
strike up a conversation about the weather.
-- “Man alive it’s cold out there! Have you heard the temperature
-- “Is this cold snap supposed to last long?
-- “What’s this I hear about another storm headed our way?”
Or my favorite: “Cold enough out there for you today?” (“Oh, it’s not so bad. Only one ear has
dropped off, and I think those pebbles rolling around in my boots are my
But what I’ve noticed is that the main factor determining how much of
any given conversation will be devoted to the weather, is the ages of the
people who are talking.
The ages of people conversing has a great deal to do with the length of
the conversation about the weather.
For example, I’ve noticed that If there is one young person, (say 10-15
years old), and one older person, (say mid-’70’s), the conversation is
typically dominated by the older person who begins with . . . “Talk about cold
weather, why I can remember . . .”
or more typically . . . “When I was your age . . .” and they go on to
tell how they were the oldest of the children and had to get up early to stoke
the fire or shovel coal, how they had to dress in front of the kitchen stove
and wear scratchy woolen long-johns, how they had to eat lumpy oatmeal or
gruel, hitch the horses or build a little coal fire under the oil pan of the
family flivver to warm it up, or how they had to walk 10 miles through 5 foot
snow drifts and a piercing cold wind to get to school. Then when they got home,
they shoveled sidewalks for a nickel to earn enough money to . . . .
The one-sided conversation ends only when the youngster silently sneaks
away, leaving the oldster to reminisce about “the good old days” to himself.
Now if the two people are
both over 70 years old, then the conversation about the weather turns into a
battle of memories. “Well I can remember back in . . .” and they exchange war stories about the
worst winters, blizzards, storms, etc. that they can remember.
This can go on for days, even weeks.
For example, while waiting in a long line at the post office just before
Christmas, two retired farmers behind me began reminiscing about the March
blizzard of 1920 that killed 34 people. By the time we finally reached the
counter, they were discussing the snow storm of ’41 in which 60 people
When I finished mailing my packages and headed for the door, I heard one of them say, “no, the blizzard
of ’66 is the worst one I can remember...35 inches of snow over three days and
winds 70 miles an hour or better left drifts 20-30 feet high out at our
ran into them again at the post office just the other day, they were talking about
the snow and ice storm of ’97 that led to “the flood of the century” that
“wiped out our son’s place in Grand Forks.”
Generally speaking, however, if the two people conversing about the
weather are a bit younger, the conversation is not so much about their memories
of winters long ago, as it is a comparison of recent winters or a comparison of
the climates they live in.
For example, when I went inside the bait shop to pay for my tank of gas,
there were several out-of-town fisherman standing around the counter waiting to
pay for their minnows and comparing notes. One of the fellows from New York
claimed that just a few days before coming here, it had snowed so hard and been
so cold there, that he saw street vendors selling coffee on a stick.
“That’s nothing,” said a fisherman from Wisconsin. “Back where I’m from,
it’s been so cold that the old folks have to put their dentures in anti-freeze
Just then, a Devils Lake fisherman on his way out the door paused a
moment, turned around and added, “Why that’s not cold. Heck, just yesterday
when I was about to leave for work, I heard a scratching on the back door. When
I opened it up, there was my old Christmas tree trying to get back in!”
Now that’s cold!
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