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AMY KIRK: Winter humor in the heartland

If South Dakotans aren’t talking about their current weather conditions, they’re checking the forecast. And if they’re not checking the forecast or Amy Kirk, Daily Republic Columnisttalking about the weather conditions, they’re most likely making fun of them.

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The subzero cold snap earlier this month stirred up a flurry of winter-related and freezing temperature amusement I kept seeing on social media sites about the Midwest. There were posts of humorous winter scenes with captions and comical comments pertaining to the freezing temperatures in the Heartland. Some of the funnier posts referenced abused Floridians who survived three days of winter. For three days, Florida experienced South Dakota’s average daily high temperature in January (22 degrees).

The days are shorter, the weather is colder, and at least in the Black Hills, winter lasts six months. So what’s there to do for entertainment? Like most Midwesterners, Dakotans make up and share jokes about the region’s snow, winters or the below-zero temperatures.

You never hear of people heading north for the winter, but for those of us who live high on the snow pile year-round, we depend heavily on nasty weather conditions and forecasts as a source of wintertime humor and entertainment. We joke about our forecasters, the timing of road and school closures, winter windiness and the unpredictable weather patterns. South Dakota is the only place I’ve seen blue skies in my rearview mirror and blowing, wintery conditions ahead of me at the same time.

Additional weather-related humor Northerners joke about includes novice drivers from the snowbird states driving on South Dakota-style wintery road conditions. Road conditions that shut down entire cities in the Southern states and advise no travel are considered ideal conditions which redneck Dakotans view as some serious fun-time driving. These types of drivers see slick, wide-open areas frozen lakes and empty parking lots as a canvas for spinning cookies, whipping cats and making hooks in the snow with their vehicles. Northerners are especially amused when they see the Weather Channel showing drivers in the southern states experiencing rare cold weather and trying to function or drive on mildly icy or snowy road conditions.

The region’s “deep freeze” a couple of weeks ago inspired our local newspaper to print an appropriate question of the week. Every week, the paper interviews half a dozen random people around town with their question of the week. Our county sheriff was one of people they asked, “If you could spend the winter anywhere you wanted, where would you go?”

What I love about our sheriff is, not only does he live in Pringle, he also has intelligent answers for the public when asked a question that gets printed in the paper. His answer was “Pringle. We have warmer winters.” His reply is probably the best question-of-the-week answer my husband and I have ever read. He speaks with truth and wisdom. By South Dakota standards, Pringle is in the tropics: higher elevation, no humidity, closer to the equator than Custer or North Dakota, and 8-10 degrees warmer than Custer (12 miles away) year round.

I’ve noticed that since the nation’s Midwestern winter experience, conversations have taken a real nosedive for being interesting. Most have been pretty boring lately — it’s been in the mid 30s-40s.

— Amy Kirk and her husband raise their two kids on a fourth-generation cow/calf operation near Pringle. She blogs at