This winter hasn’t been excessively miserable out where I live, but as we start February it feels the season has dragged on forever.
Here along the Missouri River valley, we’ve had snow, but not massive amounts. We’ve had bitterly cold weather, too, but if I’m honest, many of the days have been pretty close to average for this time of year. A fair number of them have been warmer than a long-time South Dakotan expects. It’s been a lot worse in other parts of the state, so I’m sure not complaining. I just feel that things are dragging so, so slowly.
It’s funny to be thinking that, because the forecast for this weekend is for well above normal temperatures. I started anticipating that change several days ago when I saw the numbers at the far end of the seven-day forecast. “I can’t wait to get outside and just walk in the sunshine,’’ I thought to myself. Being an alarmist like my mom, my next thought was, “Gosh, I hope it doesn’t warm up too fast. There’s a lot of snow in a lot of places in the state, and it would be a bad thing to have it all start melting and running at once.’’
In that thought, I’m probably more of a realist than an alarmist. Many of the weather, climate and water experts I’ve been following are worried about the same thing, and those people are paid to be both realistic and cautious about things like too much snow, rain and melting. Back when I worked for the state and dealt with the Office of Emergency Management, we used to talk about stuff like that nearly every day. We were the classic example of that old saying, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody seems to do anything about it.’’
(I checked, by the way, and learned from an online site called “Quote Investigator’’ that the comment belongs to either Mark Twain or his friend Charles Dudley Warner, an editor at the Hartford Courant. For the longest time in my young life, I thought my farmer father came up with the saying. He always had a lot to say about the weather, usually right after he’d listened to the latest update on WNAX Radio, the only station that reached us in Lyman County during the daytime.)
I don’t mind the snow all that much in retirement. I seldom have places to go that I can’t put off for some hours or even a day or two. Same with the cold, although the bitter winter wind these days seems to slice right through my thick old parka and settle deep in my bones. I go outside for five minutes sometimes and I feel like I’m a farm kid again, standing at the open pasture gate and feeling my feet turning slowly to ice while my dad scatters hay for the cattle.
When I worked, I found snow storms to be obnoxious. No matter what was happening outside, I had to be at work, whether the streets had been cleared or not. Once, it was the Christmas blizzard of 2009, I nearly got stuck in the middle of Highway 14 at the top of the north hill in Pierre on my way to the emergency operations center. In the middle of the highway. In town. That would have been way too embarrassing for words.
I also disliked snow and wind in my working days. We lived on a corner lot. My sidewalk took twice as much shoveling as the neighbors. The wind blew huge drifts across the west sidewalk clear to our porch. I recall being in a snow drift waist deep as I shoveled one Super Bowl Sunday while somebody crushed the Vikings.
I don’t do much shoveling in my present place by the river, so I shouldn’t let winter bother me. What gets me this year, I think, is that so many days have been so gloomy. The clouds hang low, the frequent fog hides the morning and the haze wraps itself over the riverbank like a damp quilt. It just gets old.
But there’s no sense talking about the weather, is there?