Back in my day …. it’s the ubiquitous start to any good winter fable as told by the more senior generation. No doubt you have heard countless stories that began this way and I’m about to give you one more. Not from my day (how old do you think I am), but from my Father’s day.
My Dad grew up on a dairy farm in rural Saskatchewan and most of his stories imparted one powerful lesson. Do not buy a dairy farm. At least don’t buy one if you value being warm and comfortable, going on vacation or sleeping in occasionally. Personally I value all of these things so I have taken my Father’s advice and my life is 100% cow free.
My favourite winter story from my Father’s childhood does not come directly from him, but from his younger brother Dwaine. I like to think about this story sometimes when I find myself in a winter predicament. I have thought about it while knee deep in snow dealing with vehicle troubles*, after waking up in a tent to -35 deg C standing around a metal camping grate trying to start a fire, and while fueling up my car on a minus 40 day when I forgot mittens. In those moments it gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling just to think: “At least I’m not Uncle Dwaine on January 15, 1971”.
There are many crappy jobs to do on a dairy farm, but on January 15, 1971 Dwaine had the shittiest one. Literally.
The ambient temperature that day was -44.4 deg C, with winds of 30 km/h, gusting up to 55 km/h (That’s a wind chill of -69 deg C … -92.2 deg C in the gusts. I don’t know about you, but these numbers are so low they start to lose meaning for me). Dwaine started out his chore by cleaning the manure from the barn and loading it into the bucket of the model M tractor. That was the good part of the job. He still had to bring the manure to its final resting place.
He drove out to the field and was immediately engulfed in the swirling snow of a prairie whiteout (and not the fun Winnipeg Jets kind either). Unsurprisingly, given the prevailing weather conditions, he soon became stuck. He figured, here’s as good a place as any, and dumped his load (so to speak).
He would come to regret this decision.
As it turned out, here was not as good a place as any. Some would even go so far as to say this was not a good place at all. The object that had caused Dwaine to be stuck, what he assumed was just a deep patch of snow, was not snow at all. It was a big frozen pile … of poop.
And this, ladies and gentlemen is the precise moment that I go to in my mind when someone says to me: ‘it’s too cold for that’ or when I find myself beginning to complain about the weather. I can always take some small comfort in knowing that no matter how cold I am, I am not sitting on a open air metal machine, slowing inching my way back and forth working my way free from a trap made up of two piles of cow poop.
I hope this story will give you the same warmth the next time you find yourself in a colder than comfortable situation.
*aka getting stuck in the snow by no fault but my own.