Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

Southern Living
by James Glaser
October 28, 2011
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Last night on Facebook a friend posted that it was snowing in Northern Minnesota. I was going to write back what the weather is like here in North Florida, but then I remembered how painful that first snowfall is and decided, out of politeness, not to.

It is supposed to get to 84 today, and this morning it was in the low 50s. What a heartbreaker it would be to hear those numbers when you are thinking about where you put the snow shovel, and if you should put some weight in the bed of your truck for traction. Then you wonder if you should mount that plow on the front of your truck or wait a while.

Meanwhile, I'm down here working outside in a tee shirt. However there are pros and cons no matter where you live.

Now listen to this: I built my own home on Island Lake about 70 miles south of the Canadian border in Itasca County, Minnesota. I lived there over 30 years, but I never got around to putting a lock on the door. Even though many winters I would go down to Arizona or Oklahoma to work in the nice weather, nobody ever entered my house to steal anything.

I remember my Uncle John used to lose the key to his truck so often that he soldered the key into the ignition.

I'm sure there are crimes in Northern Minnesota, but it is not to the point that people dwell on it. Down here it is a different story. I have never thought or worried about a home Invasion my whole life, but now I do. To be prudent, Wanda and I have thought about it, and have made some preparations to subvert the chance of having one. We have done nothing drastic, but every time we read about one, and we did again this week, we plan a bit more.

It isn't like there is constant crime here in Madison, Florida, but I wouldn't say that about Tallahassee just 50 miles away. In fact it was a front page headline in the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper that Forbes magazine put the capital city in eighth place in the running for the most dangerous city in America.

No, I don't lock my car every time I go in a store or the gas station, but maybe I should. It is hard to change habits learned living in an almost crime free zone like Northern Minnesota.

But, as you can imagine not everything is bad about living in the South. Did you know they have guys that fill your gas tank at the filling station, and if you ask them to, they will check your oil. People are polite down here. Young people address me as "Sir" and say "Yes, Ma'am" when talking to Wanda.

I even think there are a lot more smiles down here. Of course, when almost every day is filled with sunshine, it tends to make you feel like smiling. At 20 below, you tend to keep your mouth closed as the cold can cause your teeth to hurt, and you are not about to lolly-gag around, but are hurrying from your vehicle to get into some place warm.

I miss the fires in a fireplace, but I don't miss the car not starting or getting stuck in a drift.

One thing that is the same, North or South, is how ready people are to help you if you break down on the road. Also, I noticed every time the have a benefit for someone in need down here, it is just as well attended as they were in Minnesota.

I don't know if there are more Christians down here, but for sure there are more churches. In fact, there are more churches than gas stations or bars — hmmm, probably more churches than bars and gas stations combined. When we moved to Madison, we were invited to just about every church in a twenty mile radius of here, and whenever we meet somebody new, the question of our church attendance seems to always come up, with the invitation close behind.

Did you know that roads in the South are much better than up North? You see, there are no frost heaves nor any ice expanding cracks on the roadbed making pot holes. There also doesn't seem to be much of a crown in the roads down here and it is not unusual to hear about somebody going off the road because their car hydroplaned when they drove through standing water on the road.

I do think back to one nice thing about winters in Minnesota. Nobody expected you to be out and about, so nothing was said about someone sitting around for weeks on end reading and catching up on needed rest — kind of like bears hibernating.

Down South it is just the opposite. I worked really hard today cutting and putting up rafters, and because it is the start of fall, I only needed to change my tee shirt one time. In the middle of summer you can drench four or five a day sweating out quarts of perspiration.

So while people up North are starting their leisure time, it is time to go to work in the South. The locals down here work all year round, and I don't know how they do it. I always thought concrete work was brutal when I was working it back home, but I wouldn't even start it in the summer down here. Concrete work goes on 12 months of the year down here.

All in all, I guess it is a toss up. There are good things and bad things wherever you live. But if you do find a place where you feel good about your life, it doesn't matter if it is North or South. I loved it up North, and now I love it down here in the South. I'm blessed.

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