By Melanee Sinclair
I have always loved winter. I love the snow, the frost on the windows, and even the dreary, gray days. The crunch of the snow under my boots and my car tires makes me happy. The way the hair inside my nose crisps on those super cold days makes me feel alive. My super warm (good to 25 below) boots, gloves, polar fleece hat, and ski jacket are always in their place beside my door. I look forward to the first light snow that barely dusts the ground, and every year, I anxiously check the forecast for the prediction of the first big snow.
The first blizzard lures me outside for a hike up the road. The scrape of the snowplow on my driveway lets me know that Tim has figured out that I can no longer make it up the snow-covered driveway. The drive stretches for almost a mile, and, long ago, Tim figured out exactly when it becomes impossible navigate without his help. Each year, he comes without my having to call because I remain on his list. Truth be told, some days I wish he would just forget about me so that I could use the excuse of being snowed in to enjoy the white fluff instead of going to work. I always offer Tim a hot drink, but he rarely accepts it. Sometimes his dog is with him. He tells me that it is because the dog likes to ride in the cab of his truck, but I think he likes the company during his 16 hour work days.
Once the first snow falls, I will ski. The ski lift operator, usually a seasonal employee, is always happy that the weather has cooperated. The ice-skating rink employees have learned to anticipate a large crowd, especially if school has been cancelled. Parents will teach their young children to skate while they reminisce about days they did the same with their parents. Older kids will gather to test their new skates.
In another part of the winter wonderland, medical personnel and staff in residential facilities will attempt to report to work as scheduled. If they are unable to do so, a colleague will most likely have to work a double. Emergency staff responds to accidents and transport calls. The ambulance driver must slip on the chains in order to ensure a safe journey.
On the extremely bitter days, I think about my friends with livestock. Water troughs that have solidified must be broken into gigantic ice cubes before hot water can be carried by hand to fill and thaw them. Icy patches in front of pasture gates make for a treacherous place to stand, let alone to walk. Barn doors, their tracks filled with ice and snow, prove difficult to open.
Horses must be brought in, which means a walk across frozen mud with horseshoe indentations. Walking two horses, one in each hand, across snowy hillsides back into the barn requires purposeful, cautious steps. The animals are anxious to get back into their stalls for breakfast, and lack the understanding that the human does not have the benefit of 4-wheel drive.
I would be remiss if I failed to note that some animals are not fortunate enough to travel to the barn for shelter. There are ponies, horses, goats, sheep, and cows that are put in a field with little concern for their wellbeing during these cold days. Water troughs are frozen, and no one comes to break the ice and fill it with fresh, hot water. They stand in a shed with a hole in one side, the wind whipping through, and no one brings fresh hay for dinner.
FRIGID WORK PLACES
The humans forced to be outside wear extra layers on the really cold days. Without this, they would not be able to function. They wear battery heated vests, insulted boots, and insulted overalls. They wear gloves, even though the gloves will get wet while they are filling water buckets, because otherwise their fingers would freeze. They take breaks to huddle around a heater, or to eat a bite of food. They are reluctant to drink warm beverages because going to the bathroom is a 30-minute production, what with the taking all the layers off and putting all the layers back on. They often work all morning without anything substantial to eat or drink. If their break will be more than 30 minutes, they may take off their outer layers and sit down for a while. These breaks are often filled with questions about how long the current cold spell will last.
The workers never appreciate my love for winter. There is talk of moving to Florida or Texas or anywhere warm. A job in the Bahamas that was posted online might be discussed. It is not well received if I report that we are supposed to get a big blizzard over the next two days. I do not share my joy for snow with them on those days. On those days, I keep this to myself so that I can keep them as friends.
Those who watch from the outside as the workers perform their duties do not get it. On a lovely blue sky winter day, people make ridiculous comments like, “It must be great to work outside on beautiful days like this.” They do not understand that workers make it to the point of physical exhaustion and then somehow push past it.
WINTER IN WHEELING
We live in an area of the country where we can expect temperatures from December to March to be below freezing. On cold mornings, most will pull the blankets up tight around their noses. They may call into work, “sick” for the day. Frozen pipes that do not exist will need tended to so that work is out of the question, along with stepping outside in the cold. Many of us don’t have to drive a plow truck, milk cows, or tend to horses. For those that do have those jobs, power on! Spring will eventually come.
As for me, I will silently rejoice at the sight of the sunshine off the new snow that makes it look like I have diamonds planted in my side yard.
It’s FINALLY cold outside, and I love it!
Feature photo by LeeRoy Minnette
Article photos by Melanee Sinclair