Cold Weather Stories

Today’s post comes to us from Ben.

I was at a funeral a few years ago. Probably this time of year and it was very very cold. At the graveside there was only a handful of people. The minister is a friend of mine and he was wearing a long black robe. Afterward, I asked him if he was wearing his long johns under there. He said, “I’m wearing everything I own under here”.

Come to think of it, I’ve been at the graveside for a few very very cold funerals. My mom says when her father died it was so cold the minister basically said, ‘Ashes to Ashes Dust to Dust Amen Let’s go’.

I have two personal cold stories.

The first was a below zero day with a wicked -70’s windchill and something broken on the feed bunk. I wore about 5 layers to fix it. As I recall, it wasn’t terrible and only took me an hour to fix. But anything outside in that kind of weather is terrible.

And back in 1996, daughter was 7 months old and was taking her colds very seriously at that age. She spent a week in NICU (Neo-natal intensive care) the first week of February and we had one of these cold waves. I won’t call it a ‘polar vortex’ because that term wasn’t around then. It was just cold.

Kelly spent most of the week at the hospital. I was still home dealing with chores and milking cows. (Curiously, I don’t recall where her older brother was. He may have been home with me or maybe he was at Grandma and Grandpas house.)

One night it was -42. I took a picture of the old, analog thermometer that hung in the mudroom. The one with the lead you ran out the window and it had the red liquid in it. And I remember thinking it’s a good thing it’s this style because the electronic ones only go to -40. And that same night an owl came into the garage and perched in the rafters. Somewhere is a picture of that too.

I’ve always thought, below -20 it just really doesn’t matter anymore.

Even at that, a barn full of cows is about the coziest spot in the world. I miss that.

What’s your favorite / worst cold weather story?

35 thoughts on “Cold Weather Stories”

  1. I used to hunt pheasants with friends–a man and wife team–who were what outdoorsmen call “hard core.” Gary and Nancy often hunted South Dakota in December. Now and then they got caught by frigid weather, such as wind chills in the minus 40-60 range. Only my stubborn pride kept me staggering about in arctic weather. I couldn’t bear looking like a wuss when my young friends went on hunting.

    On our coldest trip I wore a knitted snowmobiler’s mask. My steamy breath froze when it hit the fabric of the mask, forming an ice shield so thick air could not pass through it. Of course, all that frost frozen to my face looked hellish, too. My friends controlled their dogs with chrome metal whistles. Every time they took a whistle from their mouths they lost a bunch of lip skin frozen to the whistle.

    I’ve felt colder. In December of 1964 I crossed from the west bank to the east bank of the Mississippi. The bridge, having just been constructed, didn’t have an enclosed space, so the wind got a good cut at anyone dumb enough to walk the bridge. That was my first winter in Minnesota, so I wore a coat that wasn’t even warm enough for an Iowa winter. I’ll never forget the pain of that crossing.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. My “favorite” weather story is the climate change deniers who declare a cold spell in the United States as proof that climate change isn’t happening. It’s as though all weather is confined to the borders of this country.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. One of my very first Februarys in Minnesota I drove downtown in my dilapidated old car to pick up a friend at the Greyhound bus station. The bus was late so I sat in the parking lot in my car thinking I should keep it warm rather than going inside to wait. I sat there for about 25 minutes until the bus showed up and I still remember clearly after all these years watching the temperature gauge go down even though the car was running.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Before cars had fuel injection, cold weather could make them impossible to start. Remember Tom Keith doing the sound of a car that wouldn’t start? That was so painful to hear I’d rush the radio to turn down the sound.

    The winter of 1973-74 was horrible. A cold spell hit in January. We had AAA coverage, but they said they had a backlog of 3-4 days since half the cars in St. Paul couldn’t start. My car was garaged, but it wouldn’t start for two days, meaning we couldn’t show up at the U for classes and work. On the third day of that I filled a metal pan with barbecue briquettes, soaked them and lit them. When the coals were glowing I shoved the pan under the the car. After nearly an hour the car started. I felt lucky I hadn’t burned down the car and the garage!

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I had a Ford Escape. It had an engine heater but my geese had actually chewed the plug off the cord. (I had no idea geese could do that. Those geese were terrible; they were always chewing on things. Anything hanging especially attracted them.)
      So I’d put a heat lamp over the engine on cold nights. Melted some plastic..sometimes it helped. Sometimes it didn’t.
      Like you said, lucky I didn’t burn up the car.

      Liked by 5 people

    2. I remember that January. There was a week when the temps never got above minus 10. I was at the U of MN living in a basement apartment that had big ground level windows in the front. We had a hard time keeping the apartment at a barely comfortable temp. Brrrrrr!!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. We lived in an ugly old duplex in a dilapidated and cheaply built section of St Paul. The home was built before anyone used insulation. The external walls got so cold you could feel waves of cold (as opposed to waves of heat) coming off them. Our dogs slept in the middle of the floor, as far from a wall was possible, in a dogpile.

        Liked by 2 people

    3. It was during that cold snap that our 63 VW beetle gave up the spirit on HWY280 just before the University Ave. exit, on my way to work. Luckily, there was a highway sanding truck that passed me just as it stalled. They turned around at the next exit and came to my rescue before I got too cold. It still amazes me how willing people are to help when it’s cold in Minnesota and you’re having car troubles.

      Liked by 4 people

  5. Husband stood outside his tribal housing in -30 windchill yesterday while the maintenance crew drilled out the new but malfunctioning deadbolt and put yet another in. He phoned me last night saying that he was going to spend the night up on the rez since the other lock wasn’t working correctly and he was afraid that if he left for home and locked the door, he wouldn’t get back in next Tuesday when he went back up. I told him he couldn’t stay in his place for the rest of his life for fear of the key not working. I encouraged him to come home and leave the door unlocked since he doesn’t have anything in the place that would be worth stealing. He sounded so distracted and goofy. He drove home and admitted he was probably pre-hypothermic.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I can’t remember what I won (a dollar maybe) but I stuck my tongue to the frosty cold monkey bars at Park Elementary school in Moorhead. I knew getting a mouth full of saliva in advance would allow me to escape unscathed.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. To piggy back on Steve’s statement “That was my first winter in Minnesota, so I wore a coat that wasn’t even warm enough for an Iowa winter”… I had just moved to Mpls. and was applying for jobs, my folks had loaned me their second car till I got on my feet. I had spent the previous 6 winters in Bay Area California and New York City, and must have completely forgotten what midwestern winters were like. Morning of the first snowstorm I went to a job interview wearing (I am not kidding) an uninsulated wool coat and a little pair of flats for shoes. I hadn’t been here long enough to buy my Sorels and a parka… which I did later that day!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. i think about all my misadventures and smile

    canadian rockies
    i left my guitar with the guy at the restaurant who was a cool waiter and went up to the spot the map said was a primitive camp site and available for winter camping
    we hiked up to it ( my buddy was a good guy but not real do or die ) and we laughed and screwed around with our backpacks of food and gear to get to the spot we got there about 4 as the sun was going down and discovered that primitive meant a circle of rocks in a fire ring below the 3 feet of show that’ covered it

    firewood was not readily available
    wet on the ground up high in the trees but difficult to get

    i started trying to light a fire but every time id get it going the snow would extinguish it

    my buddy was whining and pissing and moaning and after an hour or two i gave in and we decided to walk back the 5 or 6 miles to where we parked at the banff springs hotel

    the snow was a thin crust on top and each step broke through and made it a good workout in full gear with the back packs and light gone we were hiking back in the dark trying to follow the path we’d made on the way up. working up a good sweat peeling off coats and layers as the overheating hike was at a go til you can’t state where we couldn’t stop without freezing and were running out of steam
    you don’t make great time in the dark with 50lbs on your back and a whining partner needing to be led with a carrot on a string until about 8 or 9 o’clock wevarrived at the banff springs and headed for the bar

    we looked like the sorry end of a tale of woe as we pulled up a couple stools after dumping our pack in the good old vw van

    canadian beer is a cure all
    we learned which were strong bitter english ales that the usa didn’t offer in the 70’s and which were good for washing down the thick ones

    after a few, the musicians said there was a guy in the bar that they knew were good player and handed it off to him. he played ok, sang poorly and talked about the tunes he was playing that he’d written recently and thought were pretty good
    he was pretty drunk and gave back the guitar to the guy who was the hired performer and camevovervto sit with us
    i told him he did good and we told him our story and he laughed and drank with us

    we went back the next night and it was a repeat, good songs goodcdtunk but we weren’t worn out brfore we started so we closed up the joint and went back to the cheaper beer joints the next night

    a year or so later i heard one of the songs that guy played on the radio by hoyt axton or emmy lou harris and i thought he must have lied about being the writer then i heard another and another. i figured out eventually that the guy was townes van zant and he was dead a year or two later after the demons in his drinking buried him

    cold weather camping introduced me to him but that’s the way it works
    one foot in front of the other and treat the guy on the next barstool like a person of worth and you live to smile another day with a story that may be worth remembering

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Fabulous story, tim. One small detail bothers me though. Townes van Zandt didnt’ die until 1997, so either your time frame is goofed up or I read something wrong. I know time flies when you’re having a good time, so I’m assuming that “a year or two later” means that a decade or so flew by?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I didn’t realize it was Townes until years later the. One day the lightbulb came on and I looked him up and yeah that might have been him then I looked up his story on Wikipedia or something and found that he was so well respected and well loved but the drinking thing was a problem for him, he fought it and lost
        The song I kept hearing that made me wonder about that guy was poncho and lefty, if I needed you and the one with mr muddy and the card game. Good songs from a nice guy in a bar. But I didn’t put two and two together and when I did he was gone.
        I am a little underwhelmed by greatness when the great guy is just a poet with a disposition for wiskey and a soul that leaks warmth. I tend to meet those guys often and most of them are just guys


  9. I had a pipe burst in a cold snap about fifteen years ago. The plumbing and heating outfit I called told me there was asbestos on the pipes and they couldn’t do anything till I had someone remove the asbestos. I was miserable till the heat was finally restored a few days later. I still fear heating emergencies to this day.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I had a furnace inspector come out early in home service plus intro to the market place. They looked at my furnace and said the core to the furnace had a crack and it had to be shut off. It could kill me. It didn’t matter how long it had been that wayit was now off. It was like today, he first day of a cold streak. It was literally -25 degrees with no hope of a new furnace for4 or 5 days. I got a couple of electric heaters and opened the oven door upstairs and blew cold air into the basement
    Got a propane torpedo heater the next day and would play ice guard until we were ready to go.
    When they came to put in my new furnace they informed I had broken every rule in the book with my basement modifications and when they put the new furnace in it would be requuired that I cut out a couple walls and when I put them back I need to follow rules x, y and z. They would call an inspector because Edina was such a crappy place to deal with inspectors but if I ever wanted to sell it I might look into it. Oh by the way how did you get that French door in that cinder block wall? I just figured out where I wanted it and took a sledge hammer to it and put in a header after henhole was there to hold everything together. They got a kick out of that one too.
    I go through life apologizing instead of asking permission and never realizeing it shouldn’t be done til after I’m into it and ready to do whatever it takes tokavoid disaster. Does everybody else really see disaster before it becomes impending doom? Not me

    Liked by 2 people

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