The Winter Stall


Numerically, February is the shortest month. Psychologically, it slogs along like a benumbed lunkhead meandering through the calendar. February owns all of winter. We might as well X-off all other months capable of unrelenting snow and temperatures that make ice, and call every bit of it “February,” the 212-day month. Winter has stalled and there’s no end in sight.

For our region, February is that time of year when we’re as winter-conditioned as we’re going to get. Mere teens-below zero is embarrassing chitchat while in line at the grocery store. We’ve earned our bragging rights, even though Alaskans and Canadians snicker at our comparative intolerance.

I love winter under most circumstances. After a snowfall, nothing is as fresh-smelling and pristine-looking than pure white everywhere on everything. February recurs like a placebic joke to humor us until the fishing opener, a.k.a. Mother’s Day. But even by May, ice sometimes isn’t off the lakes and sideways snow isn’t uncommon.

The early stages of winter at least have deer season and an assortment of holidays. That’s when layers of snow begin to build, concealing remnants of autumn in its mortar. There’s no remembering what all we’ll find under it when it begins to melt. The other day, a raven extracted a genuine treasure—a convenience store coffee cup. It was buried so deep in the snowbank that the raven disappeared momentarily while excavating. Then he popped up, cup rim clamped in his beak, all of which encircled his face. It appeared to block his vision, but he flew to the nearest tree and was obviously in no mood to share his espresso fix with incoming company.

We’ve been having to put up snow fencing in our yard for the past several winters. We don’t want to because it’s a neighborhood eyesore. However, the fence isn’t for blocking snow. We live on a corner that’s near a snowmobile trail and our street is an artery to food and fuel in town. The fence is to discourage snowmobiles from cutting through our yard. On occasion, it sometimes backfires; the snow is so deep sleds can drive over top of the fence.

Let there be no misunderstanding, I hold our area snowmobile clubs and training programs in high regard. They provide extras to the community like trail grooming for our sled dog race. Buzzing neighborhood properties is another case of the respectful majority taking a hit for the few who besmirch the sport.

Some of the latter also have an affinity for embankments. The snow pile on our corner is a good example. It’s enough to make daredevils drool. Maybe I shouldn’t expose this publicly, but one open-throttle run up that snow ramp and drivers could change bulbs in the street lamps.

Oddly, the corner stop sign has taken on contrary meaning. It now seems to indicate full-bore acceleration. It had a dire consequence for one driver recently—an unopened beer can ejected from his coat pocket. Upon retrieval, I found the beer inside wasn’t my brand, so I poured it out rather than chase down its rightful owner. But as the last of its suds glugged away, I got to thinking. Our local radio station broadcasts notices for lost and found items. Perhaps I should have sent an announcement about the lost beer can and see if anyone had the moxie to claim it.

Then again, it’s only February. If the scenario repeats enough by winter’s end, I’ll have collected a six-pack too enticing to resist.


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