Friday's Weekend Column
All Alone In The Deep Freeze

by James Glaser
January 9, 2004

Forty below wind chills and a full moon at night makes you want to stay home cooking a big meal. You keep that stove top simmering a sauce, bake in the oven, and the kitchen is toasty and smells so good. It is dark before five, but that moon light shines in the window like a street light.

Spend any time outside and a hot cup of cocoa is nice to come in for. When it gets this cold it is best to stay inside and watch nature out the window. I never have figured out why bird's legs don't break in this cold. You would have to think that those little sticks holding up their bodies would be frozen solid. They do have the ability to fluff up their feathers and it is kind of comical to see all these little balls of feathers standing out by the feeder waiting for their turn to eat.

Last night the deer were right outside our window, about three feet from the glass. They were looking to eat the tops of foliage sticking out of the snow. They already have pruned all of the shrubs I have been trying to get some height out of. If you can some how keep the deer away from a plant until it is about six feet high, they seem to lose interest in it and it will take off from there.

I was just thinking about those birds again and had a funny thought. The way they fluff up reminded me of high school kids or I should say high school boys. You ever notice that no matter how cold it gets, they still wear a thin jacket or no jacket at all? They all seem to be hopping around and will never admit that they are cold. Of course they have lots of adrenaline and testosterone flowing through their bodies, so maybe they don't need the extra layers you put on as you get older.

I was talking to a women down in Bemidji as we were walking into a gale force wind blowing across the parking lot and she was saying how great this cold was. When we got inside I asked her if she was a winter sport enthusiast and she said no, she liked the cold because that cold is Minnesota. She went on to say that we have had three easy winters in a row and if we didn't get some bitter cold that would make national news, soon people from all over the country would be moving here. It is nice to know I am not the only person to feel that way.

If you think about it, no place in America can beat Northern Minnesota. We have the cleanest water in the lower 48 and you add to that low population, low land prices, over ten thousand lakes, tall pines, an abundance of wildlife, and really nice people, then you will see that we need the fear of cold and the summer bugs to keep the hoards out of here. There are over ten million illegal immigrants in the United States today and I would bet that there are less than five thousand, no, less than two thousand north of highway 2. Highway 2 runs east and west across the state and if you are north of that, then you are in Northern Minnesota. I live about 46 miles north of that line.

We don't dislike people coming up here to visit and it is true that we even welcome people that decide to stay, it is just that we have it so nice and peaceful here we don't want to ruin it. We have almost no crime, everyone is willing to help others, and our community and our schools are a source of pride. New people that move in always think that there is something wrong with people coming over and introducing themselves and offering their help if needed. That doesn't happen in other places, so they think that these people must have an ulterior motive for coming over. There are expectations for people if they do move up here. They should be willing to help with the community library or work on the county fair. Don't be surprised if someone asks you to put on a costume and march in the parade.

Some one dies and you will be asked to supply a dish for the meal after the funeral. That meal is a tradition started years ago when people had to travel by horse to a funeral service and it might be many hours before they get back home. So, the local church ladies started putting together this meal. It is a nice tradition because it gives everyone a chance to say something nice about the person that died to their family. Some times the same nice story keeps getting told, because that is the only nice story about that person.

At some funerals you hear so many nice things about the person you just buried, that you wish you would have known them better. There are many people up here that have a hard exterior, but behind the scene they are doing good works that no one sees and that is how they like it.

At our school every teacher knows the name of every student and probably their parents name too. Sixteen students would be a large class up here. Teenagers up here are the same as every where else. They like the same music as city kids and most of them will be moving to the cities for work. While they are going to school though there is a big difference from what it is like in the cities.

Everyone up here knows you. They know where you live and they know what you were like growing up. You do something good in school or sports and the whole town tells you what a good job you are doing. You screw up and lots of people will smile and shake a finger at you. You do something real bad and several people will have a real talk with you and try and get you back on path, because they screwed up as a kid and they want what is best for you.

Sure we have kids that get in trouble, but up here, but everyone is willing to give them that second or third chance and will do what ever they can to make sure that kid makes it. We don't have "bad" kids; we have kids that made mistakes. We all can remember mistakes we have made and if we forget the rest of the community will remind us of them.

So here we are living at forty below, the days are short, and the nights are long. People like to stop and talk more in the winter and I can't think of a home without the coffee pot on. People with livestock have to do their chores and now is the time to work on equipment. Lots of people still are out there getting fire wood, but this time of year people stay a little longer in the coffee shop and there is never a end to the ice fishing stories and heck, not everyone has heard about that big buck yet.

This is the time of year that Northern Minnesota is really the best it can be. This is the time of year that everyone gets to find out what you did this last summer, how the children are doing and where they are living now. Lots of pictures of new grandchildren, but this winter there is always that dark cloud of war jumping into the conversation.

Now that we have lost Dale Panchot over in Iraq, it seems that everyone listens a little closer to the news. Old people tell me about classmates they lost in World War II like it was yesterday. A neighbor talks about the brother that never made it back from Korea and then there is Larry McKenzie, the young man our VFW post is named after that died in Vietnam.

People can be laughing and having a good old time and all of a sudden the radio will talk about nine soldiers killed in Iraq when their chopper went down and all of those old wounds come back and everyone gets quiet.

Living in Northern Minnesota and being part of the United States is a real blessing we all enjoy, but it will not be like past years until these wars are over and we have peace again.

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