Thirty days has September,
April, June and November.
All the rest have thirty-one,
Except in the Winter of 2014,
When January and February
Each had two hundred and forty-two.
And March came in like a Lion,
When it was minus twenty-five on the Kickapoo!
It has been that kind of a winter around “these parts”. Cold, cold, cold descended on the “Valley” and hasn’t really loosened its icy fingers as March tries to go out like a lamb.
January was one of the coldest months on record as the average temperature for the month ranked in the top five or so. There was a week or so in the middle of the month where that little red string of mercury in the thermometer climbed up toward the freezing point, but for the most part below zero numbers were the rule. We were introduced to the term “Polar Vortex” as temperatures plunged towards the -30 degree mark and beyond in the first week of the New Year.
They used to call them “Cold Snaps” around here. I think that the term “Snap” was used to capture the brevity of the occurrence. But this little “Snap” arrived on the first weekend of the month and didn’t depart until the next. A little long for a “Snap”, don’t you think? Besides the record-setting cold, another little “Winter Myth” was shattered during the first month of 2014.
“It can’t snow when the temperature falls below zero”. Remember that little
“Oldie, But A Goodie”? By the way, or “BTW” if you’re used to reading in “Text-Speak”, as part of my exclusive contract that I signed last year with my publisher, I am required to use so many sets of quotation marks in these pithy little scribblings. If I don’t use them up by the end of the year, I end up getting charged so much for each unused set of quotations. My editor said that there is apparently a whole bin of the quotation marks ready for the linotype and if they are not used, it gets to be a big storage problem at the publishing house. Last year, I was charged a “pretty penny” for those unused sets of quotation marks, so now I’m making a “conscious effort” to meet my quota.
Anyway, back to the “It can’t snow if it’s below zero” myth. It was totally shattered in January as it snowed all the time when the temp was in the minus category. Mind you, not a lot of snow each day, just an inch or two – enough so that it had to be cleaned off nearly every day as well.
It warmed up in the middle of the month and usually snowed a little each day, but by the end of January, we were ensconced in another of those damn “Polar Vortexes” and we had more days when positive numbers above zero were not visible to the frozen naked eye. Those blasts of cold air from the Arctic covered most of the eastern half of the United States, reaching south to Georgia and Florida where frosty peaches and oranges were common. But it seemed the “Cold Snaps” always started here in the Midwest and seemed to hang on the longest here. On several days, the coldest temperatures in the region were centered here near the Kickapoo Valley. Perhaps this could be another glimmer of excellence for local pride and accomplishment? I think not! Besides, February had to be better, didn’t it?
Again, I think not! It took until the 12th of the month before the temperature stayed above zero for an entire day. On Groundhog’s Day, February 2nd, the Kickapoo Valley’s groundhog – “Doonie”, which lives in a secluded hollow near the Vernon-Crawford County lines, was frozen in his burrow. Doonie did not show on that day for the annual forecast about an early spring, but there was a notice posted in the next week’s edition of the “Soldiers Grove Surprizer” newspaper that the end of winter, kind of like Doonie, was no where to be seen.
It warmed some in the middle of February, but that also meant some snow just about every day and more shoveling. Boy, my wife’s back was really getting sore from all that shoveling. It warmed even more and rained on the 20th of the month. There was thunder and lightning in that rainstorm and the first thunder of the year always means something significant in the “Old Timers Weather Calendar”. I started checking around with some of the “Old Timers” about what that first thunder of the year meant. But they were all sick of talking about winter weather and that I could “Go mind my own business”.
It turned really cold again by the end of February and kept snowing a little every day. But it is a short month and when March appeared, “Hope Sprung Eternal” for spring to spring upon us. It was minus twenty-something here on Bear Creek on that first morning of March after Groundhog Day. “Pogo” gave it up the next day. The “Winter of 2014” had finally got to him.
“Pogo The Possum” had been hanging around our place all winter. We had trimmed some bushes and trees in the fall and took the trimmings and made a little brush pile to the west of the house. I was intending to burn the pile before winter set in, but didn’t get that job done either. Pogo found the little pile of brush and limbs pleasing to his housing needs for the winter and moved in. He should have picked a more substantial home for this winter.
On the few warm days of the winter, Pogo would come out of his lair and amble around the property looking for food. He would often come up on the deck to sample the birdseed strewn around there by the “Little Missus”. I tried to run Pogo off the deck early in the winter, mainly because he was a “Prolific Pooper”. Interestingly, he didn’t “play possum” when I approached with a broom, but instead whirled around and flashed his yellow fangs. I stopped my attack and Pogo scurried under the water bubbler stored on the corner of the deck. I left him alone after that little skirmish.
After those several days of brutally cold temperatures in early March, Pogo was back on the deck again. But things were not right as he could barely walk. On close observation, we could see that his feet and nose had been badly frozen. Pogo took one last portion of birdseed, deposited one last poop in front of the deck door and crawled under the water bubbler. We could see him from our bedroom window. After several days of non-movement, we surmised that Pogo had moved onto “Opossum Heaven in The Sky”. Eventually, I scooped up the little critter’s remains in a snow shovel and deposited them in the swamp down by the ponds for final decomposition.
Pogo just couldn’t make it through the “Winter of 2014”.
PS – After submitting this for publication, I was informed by the editorial supervising board that I had exceeded my “normal quotation marks usage” and would have to pay an “Excess quotation marks penalty fee”. Oh my, will this winter never end?