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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Kent Ballard, A Commentary

I woke up at some godawful hour like 4:30 AM and was as awake then--and
now--as I ever am. So much for sleeping meds. I lay the blame squarely
on Louise's shoulders for getting me all fired up about Strother Martin,
a fine and noble fellow Hoosier who had the good sense to leave and make
a name for himself. The only way to make a name in Indiana is to coach a
basketball team or rob banks and repeatedly break out of jail.

Dawn is breaking here and my local weather website says it's 7 degrees
outside. Magnificent. Wonderful. I forget what they said the wind chill
was, but it was cold enough to freeze exposed flesh in seconds. We've a
fair wind blowing now. Around 5:00 I heard my basement door open and
there are now about eleven bigfoot huddled around the gas furnace, no
doubt scooting the smaller yetis to the rear of the group. I hope they
don't figure out how to operate my new CD player down there, otherwise
I'll be listening to old Rolling Stones songs played at loud volume
while they howl away with the music. That would be enough to unnerve
anyone, even calm and rational folks like myself.

Might as well nuke another mug of tea and sip it until full daylight,
then bundle up and head for the forest to gather up all the junk my
rescuers and I left out there at sunset last night. I hope my dandy
Walls Blizzard-Proof overalls are dry. Tess washed them two days ago
when I came in looking like a walking mudball from trying to free my
stuck vehicles, and they must air-dry lest they shrink. I've got my
hunting coveralls to wear, but in conditions this extreme the Walls
coveralls and matching arctic coat are the way to go. I think of them as
my extravehicular space suit on days like these.

Years ago, I sent away for a genuine Shetland wool toboggan. The thing
cost an arm and a leg, but it was made out of virgin Shetland wool,
imported from Scotland and guaranteed to keep your head warm in any
temperature. They wear 'em on expeditions up Mt. Everest. Tess threw the
thing in the dryer once and it came out as a beanie. I wore it when I
could, and now over the years it's long enough again to cover my ears. I
don't allow the Missus anywhere near my winter socks or the toboggan
when they need laundered now. (Wound up with some children's sized wool
socks a couple of times, too.)

My cute and perky laundress is now in bed, snoring away like an 800
pound hog, and she's going to town for shopping whenever she wakes up
and has a couple of cups in her. She thinks this is a terrible thing to
do to a woman, sending her shopping for groceries and whatnot in these
temps. Ever the gentleman, I offered to trade places with her last
night. I'd do the shopping, she could chain up logs, drag them to the
woodlot, cut them all neatly with the chainsaw, and split and haul them
into the basement. She made a very cruel face at me and muttered for
some length of time under her breath.

It's light enough to see now. I'll finish this tea and start bundling
up. Actually, having been through all this many times before, I know
it's only cold for the first half hour or so. By then you're working so
hard your body heats up well, all save for my feet which go numb
reasonably quickly. Looking at that weather site, there's no letup in
these very cold temps for several days. Might as well spend the whole
morning pulling logs up near the wood splitter. I got caught with my
pants down this last time and don't want to do it again. When it rains
here for days and everything turns to soupy mud, my log-dragging comes
to a standstill.

People ask me why I don't spend my summers cutting firewood then, when
the weather is more pleasant. I do, a little bit, but overheat quickly
and then I'm blinded by all the sweat that runs into my glasses.
Headbands help this, and often I look like a refugee from Woodstock. But
the main reason I don't cut most of my wood in the summer is because I'm
mowing and hacking back the damned jungle then. April is pretty nice
here. So is October. Every other month is either a race to mow before
we're swallowed up or a fight to get enough wood to heat a house with a
cathedral ceiling, fancy new insulation or not.

I imagine several items will be solidly frozen to the ground when I get
back to the scene of Thursday's disaster. I can beat them all loose from
the ground by swinging one of the chains. I don't know if any of you
have ever swung a length of 3/8ths heavy log chain as a hammer or a
weapon, but it works well in both cases.

Time to quit being a wimp and stalling. Gotta do this sooner or later.
If any of you bump into Al Gore today, tell him I think he's largely
mistaken about this global warming idea.

Kent, expecting the valleys to fill with glaciers any time now...

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