Today is a day to appreciate the effects the positive aspects of global warming. Back in the wasted time of my youth I remember many a January day that was blistering cold, and I am not kidding about the blistering. Windy days with actual temperatures well below zero Fahrenheit can raise blisters on unexposed skin, and the fun part is one doesn’t feel it happening as one’s skin is frostbitten (= frozen) and numb. Numb like one’s mind is numb if one has dressed so stupidly that such things can happen. It happened to me on a couple of days I thought I could get by without proper gloves. DUMB!! What REALLY hurt was that I knew better, too.
After it heals and some time passes, this type of injury only hurts when it gets cold again, so that it hurts like the dickens for the next 30 to 50 or more years, every time it gets cold, just to remind one how stupid one can be. Back when I was in high school, for two years our school had double shifts each with about 1600 students while a second high school was being built in town. So, I opted for the early shift. Our classes started at 0600 hours and lasted until about noon, when the second shift started in. To get to the school on time, I had to leave home at about 0500 to walk the 2 miles (3.2 km) or so to school. Of course, I could have ridden in a school bus by leaving home at about the same time and walking about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to the bus stop. Why bother? To sit in a cold bus with 30 other kids, most of whom I thought were idiots. Nope.
Anyway, in the depths of winter, I was walking to school during the coldest part of the day. There were a group of us, a few each of boys and girls who showed up at school early. After arrival we warmed up and socialized before class started; my first class was in a biology class and our instructor was always there early, too, and he would heat up some hot chocolate or coffee on a hot plate. It was really a pleasant social time. When the real cold weather started, it was the macho thing for the guys to dress somewhat lightly for the season. Hey… after all we WERE in high school, and we WERE males. Well, on day one of the nastiest cold snap, I killed parts of my hands. But, it could be worse, this was the time of mini-skirts and where some of the young wimmen in my high school got frostbitten… well… Let’s just say I really couldn’t post the images here. This nonsense with dressing improperly in such weather lasted about a couple of days into the really cold periods (which were often a couple of weeks in duration) and then all we earlybirds bundled up well, but some other kids didn’t. Finally, the school administration required the youg women to dress properly for the weather and change after they arrived in school, and they provided time off from the first classes to do this. As for the guys… the administration seemed to figure if the guys got frostbitten, well, it served them right. DUH…
To give you an idea of the temperature 59 years ago yesterday, as I mentioned in a previous post, the coldest temperature ever officially recorded in the 48 continental United States occurred about 70 miles to the west of my home town. And the way the wind blew in from the Rocky Mountains to the West… well, it surely didn’t either slow down or warm up much on the way into town.
Well, those days are long gone. Today it is close to +50° F (10° C) outside right now, and the wind is almost not noticeable. In other words, it really is quite pleasant outside. And, there is nothing one could offer me to trade this warmth for the old cold. It is possible to enjoy oneself in very cold weather. It is also possible to easily die in such weather, and back in the bad old days several people per winter would perish in our area due to accidents or stupidity. One learned rules, like having a box full of winter survival gear in your car at all times. Or, probably the best one was that if the weather was nasty and one’s car got stuck, one must stay with the car, one should never even try to walk to the farm house one can see right over there. There was always the occasional death caused when somebody’s car would slide off the road, and they decided to walk about 400 m (a quarter mile) to the nearest farm house. Most of the time they’d make it, but… Every now and then the local newspaper would print a picture somebody took of a cow (this is cattle country) that had frozen to death standing up. Most ranchers would try to get their herds into some sort of shelter during the worst weather but it wasn’t always possible. Our local air National Guard unit always spent part of each winter bombing isolated cattle with bales of hay. And it worked.