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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Next Thing You Know, Your Toes Are Black

I am a featured writer over at Indie Ink today! Click on the Indie Link over there on the right and tell 'em Pearl sent ya! (And yes, it's different than today's story...)

The temperature at the bus stop this morning was 3 degrees Fahrenheit (-13 Celsius).

It is, by the way, shortly after declaring the temperature that your average Minnesotan is required to tell you the incredibly important facts they have gleaned over a lifetime, all of which are based on truth and specifically embellished for gruesome-ness.

Let me get you started, should you find yourself unable to come to Minneapolis this winter.


Did you know that at this temperature skin freezes? First the skin hurts, then it goes solid white and hard, then it stops hurting, and then it turns black and falls off. I knew a guy once, lost two toes snowmobiling. True story.

Did you know that 75% of heat is lost through the head? Would you believe 80%?

Did you know that there are stories of the settlers forced to kill, split, and climb inside an ox to stay alive when hit by a blizzard while coming back from town? Could you imagine being inside an ox during a snow storm? Could you imagine it at any other time?

My father told me, when I was 10, that it wasn’t until he was in his late 20s that he truly understood just how debilitating the cold was. A salesman for a cigarette manufacturer, he often traveled to the Dakotas; and while both Dakotas are known for their unreasonably cold and windy winters, he was in North Dakota when he first truly understood Winter's desire to kill him.

“I’ve got some promotional items with me. Cardboard signs, free lighters, drink coasters, that sort of thing. So I run out to the car for them.”

Dad takes a drag of his cigarette, looks off into the distance and shudders slightly, the cold still fresh in his mind.

“You ever been in a fifty-below windchill, Patty?”

My father, unable to recall the ages of his children (“What are you now, 16?” he asked me in fourth grade) is also unable to recall their names and often calls me by his sister's, something he does to this day.

“No, Dad. I don’t think I have.”

“It’ll kill you.” He takes another hit off his cigarette. “See, the thing is that it hurts. It hurts really bad. And then suddenly, it doesn’t. Suddenly, you’re getting warm again. Isn’t that nice?” He pounds the table with the palm of his left hand. “But no! You’re not warm! You’re freezing to death.”

He shakes his head. “As long as you’re in pain, you’re okay. The minute you start getting warm and sleepy and the pain is gone, you’re done for.”

He stares out the window. “Don’t ever fall asleep in the snow. I don’t care how tired you are. You ever fall asleep in the snow, you’ll never wake up.”

He takes another hit of his cigarette. “But that didn’t happen that time in North Dakota.”

I waited. Dad likes to take his time with a story.

“Nope. That’s not how it happened at all.”

Oh. Now I see. “So what did happen, Dad?”

“I put my coat on, right? Grab the keys to the car. I figure, hey, I’ll be in and out, no need for gloves. I’m out there less than two seconds, it seems, when I am completely chilled. Fifty degrees below zero! Think about it, Pearl!”

I think about it. I nod solemnly.

“So I’m holding the keys,” he holds his hand out, shows me how he’s holding the keys, “and I’m back at the trunk, and I drop them. Huh. I pick them up. I drop them again! I bend over, I pull them out of the snow – and I drop them again! And I can feel my fingers slowing down! My fingers won’t hold the keys! I can't get in the car! And I think to myself, man, this is how people die. First it’s the fingers, then it’s the toes, pretty soon you’re stumbling in circles, walking on what feels like someone else’s feet.”

“So what happened, Dad?”

“What happened?” He stands, walks to the fridge and gets himself a beer. “I died! I froze in the snow!”

My face betrays my shock and my dad laughs. “I didn’t die,” he says quickly. He pops the top off his beer.

He pauses, takes a drink of his beer.

“Yep,” he says. “I didn't die that time. But that’s how it happens, I'll bet.”


Grant said...

I know all about winter. That's the time of year that you don't have to cut grass every week. Yesterday I even considered wearing a long-sleeved shirt. Brutal.

Vicki said...

It was 19 here this morning with snow flurries last night. Much colder than I expect to be--I thought we down here sort of had a deal with someone/something that we would gladly (sometimes not so much) tolerate 30 straight days of 95+ in the summer to not suffer this. It's the deep south for goodness sake!

Sorry--I'm sure 19 would be a break of good weather for you.

sayanotherlexi said...

Ha! Your father sounds like a hoot!

Oilfield Trash said...

Awesome story. I love the stories parents tell like that. I would rather have a story like that on tv than those assholes from Jersey Shore.

Bossy Betty said...

I totally believe your father. I no longer do cold because of some harrowing experiences with it.

Eva Gallant said...

It was so cold, my nose was dripping icicles!

Karen McQuestion said...

It was so cold my eyes teared up and then the tears froze on my face!

Ha, this post was classic. I live in Wisconsin, so I have an idea of what cold is. I always wondered, though, if we really lose most of our heat through our head? It sounds like something a mom would make up to get her kid to wear his hat. Oh, I do hate wearing knit hats...

Lazarus said...

Patty, your dad should have a blog of his own, I'm sure it would be very entertaining! PS I'll bet he could recall your real first name if really pressed....

jackba said...

Yepper my Grandmother froze to death in a Colorado winter. She got lost walking home from work at the Safeway, stumbled into a small shed to get out of the wind. Laid down and never got back up. That is exactly how it happens.

Elly Lou said...

Cold. We hates it. Whisk me away to Mexico, ok?

Kate said...

This is why drunks die in snow piles.

Here's my funny cold story. I slipped and fell on the ice five years ago and broke my leg.

That is not the story.

I have hardware in my leg because of it and last winter when it was forty below and I was walking the four blocks from the parking lot into work? It literally stopped working. My whole leg. Because the metal was frozen. Hahahahaha.

Gigi said...

Well now we know where you gift of spinning a story comes from! And yeah, I think I'll stay down South. I can barely deal with the winters we have here - so I know that your winters would kill me for sure. My blood would just freeze up.

Vintage Christine said...

It's supposed to get up to the high sixties tomorrow down here. Hell, we may even break a sweat. This time of year we read about you crazy people CHOOSING to live frozen in Minnesota, and then next summer you'll read all about us crazy people CHOOSING to live on the Gulf Coast dodging hurricanes and oil spills.

Douglas said...

I can't imagine gutting an ox so I could crawl inside. A buffalo, perhaps. But never an ox.

Your Dad was good. I had a grandfather who told stories of fighting off Indians from his train. I believed them all until I found out he had never gone further west than New York City.

WrathofDawn said...

I am from the Land of Refridgedeezer Winters so I know cold. Ever since the winter evening I was too "cool" to wear a hat and got my ears frost nipped, they have never handled the cold well. Even spring-time windchill makes them sting like crazy.

Don't mess with the cold people. It'll git ya.

Leenie said...

Sort of reminds me of an auto mechanic watching two wild ducks swimming in a puddle in the back of his garage. "Stupid birds. There's a lot of chemicals in that water." Then he takes a drag on his cigarette.

Your story reminded me of tall tales told to me by uncles. Great writing, funny memories.

Charlotte Ann said...

I'm another transplanted northerner...and even the temperatures lately have been too cold for me. I guess it's all relative and all of those still live up north.

You've Got to Be Kidding Me said...

Just like when Han Solo stuffs Luke Skywalker into that Tauntaun.

Roses said...


And I'm bitching about -3'C.

I'm going to be quiet and sit in the back of the bus.

Pearl said...

So many cold stories!

And wow, Jackba?! Your grandmother? I'm just over here, shaking my head. I have a relative that chased another relative around a cabin with an ax in the middle of winter sometime in the 1880s (now THOSE were the days of cabin fever!) but you take the cake with that one.

Have frostbit all 10 toes, all my fingers (but not my thumbs! HA!) and one of my cheeks (the ones on my face). When it gets very cold and I'm not dressed sensibly, it an almost unbearable pain.

No idea why I'm up here sometimes -- and then I remember, ah. My son is here. My people are here. And so I freeze on...

Tay Talk said...

"He pounds the table with the palm of his left hand. “But no! You’re not warm! You’re freezing to death.”"

I may have lauhed really hard just then.

But harder when, “I died! I froze in the snow!”

What a great story.

Dear Lord,

I pray I never have to crawl inside an ox to stay warm. Ever.


The Vegetable Assassin said...

Eff yes. Windchill is a bastard. Last night getting groceries I remember thinking "I have never ever been this damn cold!" and it was only probably -20C before the wind chill (which isn't too bad for here) but that wind was whipping up my extremities like there was no tomorrow. I mean one January morning in 2009 I distinctly remember waking up at 6am to a -52C degree, record breaking morning and saying the words "NO EFFING WAY". Which my car also said later when I tried to start it. Stupid Winnipeg.

a Broad said...

So when they climbed out of the ox, did they yell," Ollie Ollie Oxen Free" ?

sorry, the heat has gotten to me.
love, C
sitting here next to the a/c

alwaysinthebackrow said...

When they move away from Minnesota, their blood gets thin. My 80 year old mom is back in Minn for the first time in 30 years. Not fun.
My dad and yours must be related. He had a lot of stories like that, and told them just the same way.

Buffalo said...

How about 50 below before the wind chill is added? Until my first winter in Manitoba I only thought I knew about cold.

Jocelyn said...

This type of post plays to your every strength as a writer and storyteller. What a pleasure for us readers, Girl.

And day-um, but I can't even lord colder Duluthian temps over you this winter. You got me!

Jhon Baker said...

U sed to ride a motorcycle year round and had a poster on the wall of wind chill temps at different speeds. I don't recall how cold it had to get before it said on the poster - skin blanched and then not long after that it said sure death. The coldest I ever rode was 10 degrees without wind chill factored in and I swear by all that is I will never mount a motorcycle below 36 again. At least without heated clothing and a really really good life insurance policy.

bruce said...

the only good thing about winter is i can stock up on beer and i do not have to worry about having room in the fridge..

oh and there are no mosquitos...

bruce johnson jadip
Evil Bruce
stupid stuff i see and hear

Boom Boom Larew said...

I just remember walking on snow that squeaked and having my nostril hairs freeze up. I don't miss those midwest winters!

Lynne H. said...

Hahaha.. Jhon's comment is priceless..

So I guess telling you it was a bone-chilling, purple fingertips 55 today in Tampa will evoke any sympathy?

Stay warm there Missy Pearly girl....brrrrr

Tay Talk said...

I'm back. I just read this story out loud to my husband. Full animation and all. HILARIOUS.

I told him that we need to move away, just so we can be around people like your dad.

Donna Hole said...

So what you're saying here, is that I shouldn't complain about the 60 degrees F on my way to the hearter control?

Loved your dad story. What a character he seems to be.


HermanTurnip said...

Brilliant story! Your dad sounds like stepped straight out of the Red Meat comic strip. :-)

Joanna Jenkins said...

I'm off to read....

Little Miss Sunshine State said...

it's supposed to be 73 deg here today.
My BFF was born in MN, spent time in Minneapolis getting her Master's and now she lives in Wisconsin.
No, I've never visited her in the winter.

Your Dad cracks me up!