Sam McGee, Weather Denier

Header Photo “Snowman on frozen lake” by Petritap – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Of course there are noisy climate change deniers who refuse to accept scientific research because it conflicts with their closely held political beliefs.

That’s almost understandable.

But what I can’t comprehend is the much more commonplace lunacy of daily weather denial.

A good winter storm reveals it, especially in more tightly packed urban locations. Some people downtown believe they don’t have to put on anything special to be outside because they’re only going to be exposed for a short time.

And besides, heavy clothes worn in layers just don’t look that nice. But I think inadequately dressed office workers look silly shivering as they wait to cross the street.

When I mentioned this pet peeve of mine to Trail Baboon’s sing-song poet laureate Tyler Schuyler Wyler, he said he also has a certain peeve that pesters him – presumptuous people who rip off the work of other poets merely to get a laugh.

And right after saying that, he presented me with his latest opus, which included an insincere note of apology to Robert W. Service and The Cremation of Sam McGee.

There are fashions worn in a winter storm
that would otherwise seem gauche.
Everybody knows layering your clothes
is a common sense approach.
Even dilletantes in fine restaurants
will adjust to a degree.
For a little while they’ll abandon style
if their name’s not Sam McGee.

All Sam’s garb was sheer and he wouldn’t hear
of a parka or a fleece.
If a shirt or gown had an ounce of down
his frustration would increase.
“It feels very wrong and takes far too long
to suit up for cold or sleet.”
“And besides,” he’d wink, “there’s no risk, I think.”
“I’m just gonna cross the street.”

Right across the way sat a mad buffet
called “The Sacrificial Goat.”
It was hip and loud and it drew a crowd
that opposed the winter coat.
They disdained its buik and they’d tend to sulk
if harsh weather was foretold.
Putting on their things, they’d assume it’s Spring.
‘Cause it’s cool to not seem cold.

So off Sam would skirt in a polo shirt
with Bermuda shorts below
Into two degrees with his naked knees
and flip-flops, to face the snow.
“Winter air feels fresh on my naked flesh!”
he declared. “It’s strength of will.”
“And what’s more,” he spat, “I don’t need a hat,”
as he stepped into the chill.

Quite against Sam’s plan the snowflakes began
to collect between his toes.
And those flopping flips, ‘midst their many slips
became rigid when they froze.
Trying to be brave, Sam’s blue eyes turned grave.
As streetward, on he pressed.
At the crosswalk light, his mouth thin and tight
He tried not to seem distressed.

In the urban grind one will often find
that delay is the routine.
And slow went the time at that corner sign
with Sam blocked by traffic’s stream.
Then a passing truck’s plume of slushy muck
sealed the frosty fate Sam faced.
For his flops got iced and nothing sufficed
to dislodge a man encased.

With each frigid blast nature built a cast
that enveloped Sam, complete.
It was clear and slick and six inches thick
from his head down to his feet.
Looking through the shell one could clearly tell
that his face showed some regret.
A wardrobe reform could have kept him warm.
but he’s not been thawed out yet.

In December’s pale, teachers tell the tale
of the legend Sam became
Heading off to play on a chilly day
All the children learn his name.
Don’t go out of doors with just summer drawers
against winter’s nasty breeze.
you could be marooned in a white cocoon
like the ice man, Sam Mcgee.

Are you (or have you ever been) a weather denier?

53 thoughts on “Sam McGee, Weather Denier”

  1. It seems to me that Tyler Schuyler Wyler has been working overtime lately, but he always seems to rise to the occasion. Nice work, Dale.

    Isn’t that what skyways are all about? In all the years I worked downtown Minneapolis, I don’t think I ever wore a coat or jacket to cross the street, no matter how cold it was. Often I’d scoot across the street on ground level, but if I felt ambitious, the circuitous routes of the skyways would take me to wherever I was going in comfort.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Having grown up in western Iowa in a decade that saw lots of big snowdrifts, I tend to think of that as “normal winter weather” and have been pretty disappointed most of the rest of my life.

    I am constantly sending the s&h back for better shoes, gloves, a coat. Sure, I am chauffeuring him door to door, but that kind of faith in a mere care in Minnesota in February is nuts.

    Gave one of his friends a ride home from the early release yesterday and yipped a bit when I saw how little he was wearing.

    And his back-up plan was standing on a corner waiting for a city bus.

    City people.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Really impressive poetic production this morning. I think I would have recognized that galloping R. W. Service meter even without the Sam McGee hint. It’s a perfect choice for the subject matter and so distinctive, I would have thought Service would have been extensively parodied, like Longfellow’s Hiawatha has been, but I’ve never run across any Service parodies. That rhythm just cries out for declamation, doesn’t it?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Maybe, because Service so often seems like a parody of himself, there isn’t room for much contrast. You can imitate him, but not parody.


  4. This may or may not be weather denial. I almost never have buttoned or zipped up my coats in winter. I like the freedom of an open coat, but more than that it pleased me to think that I had a simple way of getting warmer if I became uncomfortable. It was a way of saying, “Look at me, winter! You aren’t impressing me with your cold weather. I haven’t even needed to close my coat.”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I have trouble with weather transitions…hot or warm to cold, cold to warm or hot. Especially the latter…I am often overdressed in spring, not necessarily undressed for winter. It is especially difficult for me when the weather goes suddenly into hot without the gradual transition to warm before it gets hot. Hot is especially difficult for me, hot and humid is impossible for me to function in. I often wonder if I damaged my thermostat one hot summer day in southern MN I insisted on wearing my favorite corduroy long sleeved shirt. Or, was it the day I sat passively on a horse in the hot sun and had a heat stroke?

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I have what I like to consider a healthy contempt for fashion and the fashionable, so I prefer to dress as if I’m going to be standing outside for half an hour (the length of time between buses at my stop). This has come in handy more than once when the bus did not, in fact, come for nearly an hour, and I figure I can always unzip a layer or two if I’m truly overdressed.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. On a very cold day, when i was young, I spent a long time outside with my ears exposed and suffered frost bite damage on my ears. I don’t know if that incident qualifies as an example of weather denial. It certainly was a case of not being very smart. Now I am very careful to put on plenty of clothes, including clothing that covers my ears, when going out on a cold day. I have no desire to risk ending up like McGee in the sing song poet’s poem. What are those people thinking that go out without a warm coat and other winter clothing right in the middle of the winter?

    I knew a student from Africa who had no experience with winter weather and said that the heat in his body kept him warm so he didn’t to dress for cold weather. Later, that winter, he finally realized that his body heat wasn’t enough to protect him and he became very sensitive to cold. Even after putting on plenty of warm winter clothes he looked as though he was close to freezing to death.


  8. Exposed skin freezes at precisely the same rate for tough guys as it does for wimps. I don’t see the point in denying that. Likewise, layers of clothing ward off hypothermia far more effectively than bravado.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. We lived in Winnipeg when I was pregnant with our son. Husband insisted that I get this knee length down coat as he was afraid I would be cold in the winter. I always felt so warm when I was pregnant that the coat was way too warm and I never even zipped the coat all winter.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I will say it really is not that cold today and shovelling the incredibly light snow was a pleasure.

    S&h strapped on the yaks last night and did laps around the block. Part because he has an indoor race on Sunday, part to run off excess energy, but I suspect largely to be able to say he did it 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  11. In the 70’s and, if I recall correctly, into the early 80’s, teenagers under-dressed badly: unbuttoned light coats over T’s and no hat or gloves, light shoes, often slippery leather soles. Then all of a sudden it became the fashion to wear heavy clothing, almost too much when it was not that cold. Students from four colleges around here dress intelligently for winter.
    The winter clothing today is so much better than the heavy wools I wore as a child out in the cold, sometimes extreme cold, but I do not remember being cold. I used to be indifferent to cold. One of the affects of fibromyalgia is to make me now very sensitive to cold.
    The tangled woods out my window make a nice abstract design today with the snow on the right and top of all the sorts of trees and brush.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My neighbor teenage girls wore flip flops and bare feet all year long. Claimed their feet never got cold. Yes, and now I see teenagers wearing UGGs in the summer. Go figure.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve never had a car in a garage in my life. Wasband was such a hoarder that top to bottom, back to front, and side to side, the garage was piled with junk. I learned to make do with an electronic car starter on a keychain. It’s been 11 years since he left, but the big garage is finally empty. I still start my car from the window so it’ll defrost and be toasty.

        I haven’t figured out a way that the car could both be in a garage and heated up sufficiently. Besides, my garage is now 200′ feet from the cottage, so I’d have to shovel a path to reach it.


  12. I am certainly not a climate denier when it comes to cold weather. I agree with Clyde that cold weather clothing of today is 100 times better than during my growing up years – even into the early 70s when polyester fiberfill was the best you could do for outerwear.
    I don’t remember being particularly cold as a kid – though I distinctly remember going home with frozen feet after outdoor ice skating for a few hours. Fashion did take over during junior and senior high school. Who wanted to be the nerdy kid in all those layers? I was one of many female classmates who wore wool Bermuda shorts, knee highs, and leather soled shoes to basketball games. How stupid!!
    It has been a long time since I’ve been worried about fashion during winter. I hate being cold and even when driving for short errands I dress as if my car will stall and I have to wait for two hours for help. I used to downhill and cross country ski but nothing short of chemical hot packs keep my hands and feet warm enough to enjoy it anymore. I freely admit to being a winter wimp but on the other hand have no desire to become a snowbird.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Just had a visual memory of wearing wool snow pants under skirts…up to and including senior high school. We walked to school…and girls weren’t allowed to wear pants in class. Yup, I’m that old.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Anybody old enough to remember four-buckle black rubber galoshes? That was the nearly universal footwear in winter when I was a kid. And woe to the sloppy kid who failed to latch all the buckles down, for it was quite easy for an open buckle on the right foot to lock on to an open buckle on the left. Face plant!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. It really is pretty out there today. Last night while we were doing the second round of shoveling, a truck went by (I was thinking Why would they be out if they didn’t have to??) and then realized it had a rope behind pulling a kid on a sled. : )


  15. i am not so much a weather denier as a littel too easily distractable. i am sitting in the car with the heater on and the person next to me cries out in anguish tha tit is too hot….. i simply hadnt noticed. once you mention it its hard to miss.
    summer outisde is wonderful. a littel shade and a breeze makes minnesota an ideal setting

    someone pointed out ther eare 10 perfect days a year and you had better get out and enjoy them. i started counting and they are right.
    there are also 10 cold days and 10 hot days a year so if you want to get through a stretch of weather remember that it is likely the entire does of whatever you are getting all at once.

    the nicest exception was summer 2015 here in minneapolis. i believe there were 75-100 ideal days. not too hot, humid or buggy. a great year to be outdoors


  16. Me and Bud Grant: ‘cold is a state of mind’.

    I see too many college kids without a coat. I figure they have just left it in the car. But that far parking lot is a few hundred yards away…
    More often I notice the high heels the girls are wearing during winter. What’s the matter with you kids??
    I’m still wearing my sleeveless shirt, thank-you-very-much, but I have a T-shirt under it (sleeveless of course) and I wore my jacket. Unzipped like Steve says; there if I need it. And gloves in my pocket.
    When we get to single digits I have a heavier jacket (that I found in a township ditch in fact.) with heavier gloves and ear muffs.

    Don’t get me started on the hair buns for guys. I’m gonna take my garden shears and snip them off!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I have a snow routine. Whenever it reaches 4″ on top of the car, I scuttle out and shovel a path around it so that it’s not so overwhelming the next day. I did this three times last night and then again this morning. That adds up to 12″. Love it! My oldest son’s family is moving here in a month from Atlanta so I texted some pictures to them showing a real Minnesota winter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My favorite March memory is all the men with ice spuds in the alleys, chopping and chipping ice to promote faster melt rates. It always felt to me like I could hasten the arrival of spring by hacking paths in the ice, making it easier for melt water to sluice away.


  18. I learned at a young age to not deny the weather – as a kid, I was rarely inside when I could be outside. Which meant, since I grew up in Minnesota, that I had many times of extremely cold or frostbit toes and fingers. I remember one time in particular, playing outside with my friend Mark and going into his house and realizing that my feet were so cold that they hurt so bad…his mom put my feet in a pan of lukewarm water, but I told her that the water was Boiling Hot and I Can’t Stand It, Take My Feet Out. She was very firm that my feet had to stay in there and it’s a good thing she made me do that.

    So, I eventually learned to respect the cold and pay attention to my extremities.

    And, like Crowgirl, I have a healthy contempt for fashion – or maybe it’s just contempt, ha ha – so I put on the layers. Hat, long underwear, wool socks…

    Now, I think I need to get some handwarming gizmo. Taking pictures outside in the winter makes for some mighty cold hands.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Today is fire day.
    First downtown Madelia burned, about the last small town downtown I know of in the area. So sad.
    Second: we have many foreign residents in our building, part of its delight. Today a couple of about age 60 from somewhere in the middle east with very poor English started a fire, small and quickly contained, but with alarms, evacuations, and fire department. The woman was trying to make some kind of bread from their homeland and she used the broiler to fry it.


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