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Cabin fever is setting in

The outdoors is a good cure for cabin fever.

This can be a dangerous time of the year, and not just because of the hazards regarding leftover fruitcake.

An even larger peril lurks, one that can affect the life of every man, woman, and beast here in the Northland. Yes, I’m talking about cabin fever.    
Cabin fever is a common malady in regions where winters can last longer and be more annoying than the Kardashian craze. The earliest symptoms are usually mild, involving such things as yelling at the TV during the Jerry Springer Show. The victim can quickly descend into full-blown cabin fever, a diagnosis that is confirmed when the afflicted confesses to secretly hoarding garden seed catalogues.    
Thanks to the wonders of modern pharmaceuticals, there are numerous treatment options for victims of cabin fever. For instance, cabin fever can be countered with an antidepressant. But it turns out that one of the side effects of antidepressants can be ED, so a substance may be needed to address that issue. But ED drugs can cause headaches, so numerous aspirin might have to be taken. Too many aspirin can cause indigestion, so an antacid might be in order. And so it goes, until your medicine cabinet resembles a miniature version of a Walgreen’s.    
Back when I was a kid we would have never considered the use of psychotropic substances to treat cabin fever. This is mainly because our parents believed that suffering builds character. My upbringing involved so much suffering that I am simply bursting with character. Just ask my wife; she is always telling people that I’m full of it.    
For us kids, the cure for cabin fever was always located outdoors. This was hammered home time and again during that beastly winter we endured the year when I was 11.    
It was an ideal winter from a kid’s perspective. Blizzards roared across the prairie with remarkable regularity. We received so much white stuff that a snowplow got stuck on the gravel road east of our dairy farm and remained stuck until the snow melted in the spring. School was called off for weeks at a time. I could actually feel my brain beginning to atrophy.    
With eight kids in the house, it was inevitable that we would get on each other’s nerves. Little quirks that had previously gone unnoticed became heated points of contention. Bitter arguments erupted over such things as the inordinate amount of time a sister spent playing with dolls or her brother’s (alleged) abnormal fascination with boogers.    
Mom and Dad would separate the combatants and command one side or the other to “go outside and get some fresh air!” It didn’t matter if it was well below zero with a howling wind; we had to bundle up and go.    
One midwinter day my two brothers and I were banished to the outdoors when our little sister discovered that her Barbie had been stuffed headfirst into a stinky old work boot. The authorities interrogated me and I informed them that it was obvious that the doll had done this to herself. No dice!
We decided to make the best of our exile by expanding the tunnel system we had installed in the mountainous snowdrift near the house. We were busily excavating when I happened to glance out at the road and... what was that? Some sort of apparition was materializing from the blinding snowstorm! The isolation was causing me to hallucinate!    
As the phantasm drew closer I perceived that it was just Martin, our old Norwegian bachelor farmer neighbor. I was somewhat disappointed. After all, I’d never had a real hallucination before.    
I walked out to Martin and invited him into our house. I noticed that there was a small icicle dangling off the end of his nose and that the stub of an unfiltered Lucky Strike was stuck to his lower lip. It’s fortunate that windchill hadn’t yet been invented or he might have frozen to death.    
My parents bade Martin to warm himself beside the kitchen stove and plied him with steaming coffee and scrambled egg sandwiches. They asked Martin about road conditions and what it was like out there. Martin replied, as was his custom, that while this winter may be bad it was a Sunday picnic compared to those he’d endured in his youth.    
After an hour or so Martin got up to leave. As he pulled on his massive sheepskin duster, I secretly slipped a little something into one of his coat pockets. I hoped it would help him fight off his next bout of cabin fever.    
It was a small sacrifice. Besides, there were plenty more garden seed catalogues where that one came from.

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