Mark Hunter (ozma914) wrote,
Mark Hunter

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column: Junior Blizzard Wasn't Much Fun (now with picspam!)

I've realized that a previous post of mine was misleading: The "Romance Writers on the Journey" interview of me that's coming out on February 27th is a print interview, rather than an audio one. I'm still hoping for audio too, eventually! But you don't have to be there at 4 p.m. to get this one -- it'll be up on the website, at

Meanwhile -- it's minus 5 degrees F, so I'm warming us all up with a few photos from when Emily and I ventured outside after the blizzard. And yes, I'm being sarcastic; but Emily's a southern girl, so I think she got a kick out of seeing more than a foot of snow on the ground at the same time.


The first column I ever wrote was for my high school newspaper, “Cat Tracks” (Our mascot is a cougar. I wonder if that’s where my cat allergies come from?) It was fairly easy to get the paper to print my piece – I was co-editor-in-chief at the time. The other chief, Sally Weigold, had the brains, and I had the time. (Which is code for I had no social life.)

The title of that first column was “cabin fever”, as I recall. I don’t remember much more about it, except that at the end I described myself cracking up over the pressure, opening a kitchen window to escape my snowed-in confines, and being buried under an avalanche of snow.

Hopefully my columns have improved since. Still, it shows that even back then I had both a fascination with weather and a hatred of winter weather, so you can imagine the feverish overtime my brain’s been working under lately.

That would have been close to 1978, when we had a storm so bad that, to this day, when people around here say “The Blizzard” we all know which one they’re talking about. The blizzard that hit us last week pales in comparison, but it packed a punch of its own – and this new one certainly spread out over a much larger area.

By the way, it was officially a “blizzard” in this area, meeting the required definitions. Isn’t it a strange quirk of human nature that we always want our disasters to be the really bad ones?

I have a few notes about the storm, but really there’s not much to say. It was a snowstorm. You can’t swing a frozen cat in a Midwest winter without hitting a snowstorm. We were snowed in for about a day and a half as opposed to a solid week in ’78, and at no point did I make an attempt to escape through any drifted shut window.

In fact – and maybe this is just age talking – I’d be perfectly content to stay inside the whole doggone winter. Sadly, I have bills to pay. Being snowbound loses any sense of adventure when the gas, water, and electricity are shut off, and these days the loss of internet is absolutely panic-inducing.

So there I sat with Emily, sipping tea and running through Kleenex while periodically checking her temperature. This is not a normal fun off-day for us, by the way – in addition to the illness she already had, we both developed head colds. Although I’m sure there’s someone, somewhere, whose twisted fetish is blowing their nose and checking their lover’s temperature, I’d rather not hear from anyone who thinks that’s a fun Saturday night.

Illness connects to one discovery I made about the bad weather: January 3, 1999, brought one of the most powerful snowstorms to hit this area since the early 80’s, and on that same day I came down with strep throat. I started doing some checking, and realized that I tend to get sick during bad winter storms. Coincidence? Or is my body trying to give me an excuse not to go outside?

But I had to go outside eventually, not only because of work but because volunteer firefighters have to keep a way clear to get their cars out, for obvious reasons. That means shoveling. Through most of January I’ve been having some spinal issues, which is another term for “blinding pain” that started after I shoveled out from a much smaller snowfall a month before. I was a bit concerned.

On Wednesday afternoon I got up, took half a bottle of ibuprofen, did stretching and warm-up exercises, smeared evil green gunk that I got from my chiropractor on my back (it burns and freezes at the same time! This is the medicine they serve in hell!), donned seven layers of clothes, cranked up my iPod, put three more layers of clothes over that, put my hand on the door knob –

And the phone rang. It was my oldest daughter, Charis: “Have you gone out and shoveled yet?”

True Twilight Zone moment, there.

She and her fiancée, Vinny, were headed over with a snowblower. I started to say no, citing time, gas usage, road conditions and such, then sanity hit.

Good thing, too, because it was the heaviest snow ever. What little bit of clean-up work I still had pretty much did me in; it was like picking up blocks of granite, right down to seeing layers in it from the waves of snow and sleet. Thank goodness for 30 year old Montgomery Ward snowblowers and people who know how to make them work. (We won't talk about the two other snowstorms that hit within a week after.)

Why did I not immediately say yes? Maybe the tendency of men to want to go it alone, even when they should know better. Maybe my deep fear that giving up the shovel is also giving in to the idea that I’m getting older, and can’t just run out and start throwing stuff around like I once did.

Maybe I’m becoming accepting of all that, because guess what I want for my birthday? That’s in July, so they should be on clearance.

There’s not much else to say about the Blizzard of 2011 that I haven’t already said about winter in general. It’s pretty to look at, but a pain to deal with. Drivers are insane, people don’t start to prepare until it’s too late, and everyone who doesn’t go out there to work in the snow complains about everyone who does. A month ago I could have found more humor in it, but right now I just want this year’s frozen nightmare to end. Honestly, the only thing that makes me smile these days is when a SUV tailgates me for five miles before passing, and then I find it in a ditch further on down the road.

I always wave as I go by. It’s important to be polite. 

Uh oh -- somebody's thinking snowball.  Luckily, she didn't hit the camera. (It's not as bad as it looks; she's standing by an embankment that normally would come up to her waist.)

Wait -- it's winter, not fall!  There were pretty deep drifts in the back yard -- she had to find a shallow spot to make a snow angel. Why she'd want to make a snow angel is another question entirely.

The result:

No, I'm not happy. I had to go out shoveling four times in one week. Do I LOOK happy? Oh, you can't see how I look, I'm wearing seven layers of clothes.
Tags: column, new era, slightly off the mark, storm chaser, weather

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