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Bad Winters

Agriculture.com Staff 11/20/2006 @ 9:00am

We're about due for a Bad Winter, according to the old-timers. We get a rough winter roughly every 10 years, they say, and it's been about a decade since our last Bad Winter. so we're due.

Why is it that some people have to be so curmudgeonly, such downers? After all, the world already has enough talk radio hosts. Some folks simply can't be happy unless they're upset about something, I guess.

But back to winter. It's already too late for our current winter to qualify as a Bad Winter. Bad Winters arrive early and stay late, like an obnoxious in-law who comes for Thanksgiving and is still munching Cheetos on your couch when Memorial Day rolls around.

There are folks who actually look forward to Bad Winters. This is mainly because it feels good to tell kids how tough it was "back when," such as that Bad Winter when the snow was so deep you could go sledding off the barn roof.

I am old enough to be able to recall several Bad Winters. One of the most memorable was my 18th winter, when I was the live-in hired hand at a Hartford dairy farm.

Shortly after starting my job in the first week of November, a Bad Winter came roaring down from the north. It shrieked and howled, turning the rolling brown prairie into a frozen ocean of tortured white waves.

A brittle, Siberia-like cold descended. Men and machines creaked and groaned when they first moved each morning.

After morning chores the boss and I would report to the house where his wife would serve us a hearty breakfast. The boss would then lay down on the floor for a half-hour nap. During this hiatus I had no choice but to watch "The Price Is Right" and discuss topics of the day with Holly, the boss's three-year-old granddaughter.

Holly was proud of her coloring abilities. She would often make up stories about what she was coloring: this blue rabbit is hiding from a fox, this purple and orange cow is looking for her calf.

Holly schooled me about the proper way to hold a crayon and I reciprocated by teaching her how to wink.

The Bad Winter wore on and on. One day it regarded us puny humans with a baleful eye and decided that we weren't suffering enough. The next storm arrived with a fanatical fury, lashing us with windchills normally associated with the formation of permafrost.

Chores seemed to take forever in that deep, deadly cold. The snow creaked underfoot, a sound that's about as enjoyable as fingernails on a chalkboard.

We heard a distant rumble as we finished morning chores. The milk truck had foundered in a snowdrift several hundred yards from the driveway, and I was summarily "volunteered" to walk out to the truck and help the driver shovel.

Outside the shelter of the trees the windchill cooled the atmosphere to the point where it became a liquid. Slogging through the slushy air, I realized that my only hope for surviving would be to shovel fast and hard.

After freeing the milk truck, I walked back and reported for breakfast. The boss was already engaged in his nap and Holly was quietly coloring. Glancing up from her work, Holly appraised me and announced, "Your nose looks funny."

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