A Siege Mentality
Winter in this part of the world isn't so much of a season as it is a siege.
One night a blitzkrieg of wind comes sweeping down from the North, and in the morning it feels like Leningrad in January of 1943. A merciless army of cold and snow has you surrounded and is prowling outside your walls, watching, waiting, hoping that you slip on a patch of evildoer ice or that your car will fall victim to a sniper snowdrift.
We are grateful if the snow stays away until December and are not at all surprised to be shoveling the white gunk prior to Thanksgiving. At the other end of the calendar, a white Easter is never out of the question. We often wonder if we'll have a white Flag Day or perhaps even celebrate the Fourth of July amidst an assemblage of decaying snowmen.
When I was a kid, we always struggled to get the corn harvested before winter set in. Completing this task in a timely manner was a top priority, as none of our farm implements were equipped with the "ski" option.
We were as happy as a puppy receiving a tummy rub if we finished corn harvest before the snows came. And should the weather gods smile upon us, we might even sneak in some fall tillage before Old Man Winter turned the soil into iron. Accomplishing a goodly amount of fall plowing felt much like learning that your extra-large supreme pizza will be free due to its being slightly dropped on the floor.
We managed to get the corn picked and safely cribbed the autumn when I was 16. Dad then suggested that perhaps we -- meaning I -- could squeeze in a little more fall plowing.
The day before Thanksgiving was cold and blustery, with snow in the forecast. I was sent to plow a mile and a half from the farmyard, at the extreme southern edge of some land we rented. I was told to plow until it got dark or began to snow too hard, whichever came first.
Like most teenagers, I had a highly developed sense of victimhood. I was certain that the entire universe had been invented for the sole purpose of tormenting me.
This perception of being put-upon was sharpened by the fact that I had to plow with our old John Deere B. Why was it my lot to suffer so? Where were the jet packs we had all been promised? Why didn't I at least have a tractor with a cab? Certainly 16-year-olds everywhere were having vast amounts of fun in their flying cars! Where was mine?
Yet there I was, slowly putting back and forth in that cold and forlorn stubble field, flipping over pair after pair of 14-inch furrows. My mental jukebox (the B had no radio; heaven forbid such luxury!) was stuck on "My Maria" by B.W. Stevenson. The B popped in time as the tune echoed through my skull in an endless playback loop.
Some of the lyrics include a reference to a lonely dreamer. That certainly applied to me. I often daydreamed about girls, those angelic, enigmatic beings who universally held me in the same esteem as week-old roadkill.
Other lyrics spoke of a lonely highway in the sky. This, I surmised, was an allegory for air travel, a fantasy that seemed every bit as distant as the idea that I would ever meet a lady who would "treat me so right."