South Dakota’s wintery weather gets icy reception

South Dakota's wintery weather gets icy reception By Bob Karolevitz When the mercury goes below zero, I turn into an icicle.

I think I'm half Tahitian and Phyllis is half Eskimo. She likes winter, which convinces me that opposites really do attract.

I guess I wasn't always anti-cold, though. In the cobwebs of my memory I can recall how I once bundled up and trudged maybe half a mile to the church when the temperature was something like minus five or worse.

I was probably in the fifth or sixth grade at the time, and the schedule called for me to serve Mass during the Christmas vacation. My mother said I shouldn't go, but I was stubborn and knew that it was my duty to be there. We didn't have a car, of course, because it was in the Great Depression. The only way to go was on foot.

So out into the cold I went. The wind-chill factor � which we didn't know about then � was gosh-awful, but I plodded through the snow with fierce resolve that my martyrdom was called for.

Somehow I made it to the church sacristy with no frozen parts. I was really proud of myself. I had faced the elements and won. Sainthood would be my reward.

And then it happened!

Instead of being pleased that I had made it through the Siberian cold without turning into an ice block, the kindly old priest was anything but kindly.

"You dumb kid," I think he said. "You shouldn't be out in weather like this!" Then he proceeded to chew me out some more.

Needless to say, I was thoroughly deflated as I held back the tears. Now, more than 70 years later, I can still remember that unhappy incident. Since then I've done everything possible to avoid going out into the storm.

Of course Phyllis doesn't understand it at all when I grimace and grumble as she sends me out to chop the ice out of the stock tank.

"Don't be such a namby-pamby," she chides. "It'll put color in your cheeks."

Frankly I'd opt for ashen jowls. Her Norwegian heritage may have prepared her for the wintery outdoors, but I think my ancestors must have come from "southern" Poland.

Don't get me wrong, though. I like the change of South Dakota seasons. The only thing is I want to watch the blizzard from the inside of the window. I don't want to go out into it.

Friends tell us how wonderful it is in Texas, Florida and Arizona. I suppose it is, but that same stubborn streak which caused me to do a stupid thing when I was a youngster now keeps me from becoming a snowbird.

I admit that I'm the namby-pamby that Phyllis says I am. I don't own a snowmobile or a pair of skis. And I never did enjoy playing fox-and-goose or making "angels" in the snow. I prefer a hot game of gin rummy in a warm kitchen as my idea of a great winter sport. You don't need galoshes or earmuffs for that.

So how do I survive a South Dakota December? It's easy. I keep lots of wood by the fireplace; there's schnapps in the cupboard and plenty of food in the pantry. My long johns go on in late September and don't come off till April (not the same pair, incidentally).

Oh, Phyllis chases me out now and then to feed the horses or to get the eggs before they freeze. I'll accept that. It's sort of the dues I pay to live in what I consider to be God's Country.

I don't think I'd feel that way in a igloo or tipi, but in a snug farmhouse with the furnace doing its job, I'm mighty comfortable.

And this is a special time of the year. The aroma of Phyllis's holiday baking fills each room, and Yuletide music from our Bose makes me forget that I didn't get all the outside decorations up on time.

Looking out, I can tell that there'll be plenty of snow on the ground come Dec. 25 � which reminds me (and Phyllis, too) to wish you all a happy and holy white Christmas!

© 2000 Robert F. Karolevitz

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