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Mike Lunsford

January 25, 2009

The Off Season: Remembering the frost on Dusty’s whiskers

It is snowing ever so lightly this evening as I sit at my window. My thermometer’s mercury hovers somewhere in the upper teens, a refreshingly balmy night when compared to those of a week ago when it seemed as though my breath froze in midair before dropping to the snowcrust in a lump.

My grandfather, Roy, was a big proponent of a good, hard freeze in midwinter; I often heard him say that the deep cold killed off all the bugs that ailed us, that it put color in our cheeks, that it helped us appreciate the warmth of our furnaces and stoves. He was one of the breed who put his long johns on when the days first turned cold in late fall, then left them on for the winter’s duration — minus washing time, of course — until spring. He was a rough old bird, who on the coldest and dimmest of January mornings still ran his traps and walked his dog.

But the icy reach of the bitter north wind that whipped across our neighboring fields last week has done more than simply bring my granddad’s words back to me. I have many fond cold-weather memories, scenes from the past I replay in my head when the snow drifts and schools close and icicles hang from the gutters as if they are racing one another to the ground.

Like most of us, I imagine that my first good, cold-weather memories involve sledding. My cousins, who lived across the road from us, owned not only great, old sleds — one was big enough for three riders — but also a nice piece of topography begging for their use. We — my brother, John, and sister, Lora, and cousins, Roger and Renee — made that hill our own personal ski resort, taking its measure, riding everything from my uncle’s coal shovel to our “Flexible Flyer” to an old bicycle, the latter used only when we had mustered the courage to take the risk of nastier spills.

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