Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Morning Thanks--heating oil
There are a million jokes, I'm sure. Johnny Carson made a motif of 'em in his monologues, but then Johnny Carson was, originally, from Siouxland. You know--just exactly how cold is it?
Cold enough that Starbucks sold coffee on a stick.
Cold enough that hitchhikers were holding pictures of thumbs.
Cold enough that when we milked the cows, we got ice cream.
Cold enough that our squirrels hurled themselves at the electric fence.
Cold enough that politicians had their hands in their own pockets.
Cold enough that my mail broke.
Cold enough that my neighbor's toupee flew south.
You know--dozens and dozens of jokes, right? Yesterday the blistering wind was so cold it took off your face, but in a fit of cabin fever and with the knowledge that the Yankton Sioux actually lived in teepees right here, up at the bend in the Floyd, I decided I'd get my constitutional anyway. So I layered myself to the point where I resembled the Michelin Man and made my way outside, through the alfalfa and the trailer court, then up the highway, where I crossed the bridge. I wanted the trees, of course, a buffer; but to get there, I had to duck from a wind that numbed every square inch of exposed skin.
When I walked into the park, a pickup pulled off the highway, I swear. It wasn't a friend--I mean, I didn't know the guy, and he had no idea who I was because he'd come up behind me and I was so bundled, hooded, and bent over against the wind that I was only barely recognizable as a human being. He stopped out of sheer human mercy.
"You need a ride," he said. He wasn't asking.
"No, no, no, no," I told him. "I'm just getting my exercise."
I'm sure he left more sure he should have wrestled me to the ground and carried me away.
That's how cold it was.
So cold when I turned on the shower, I got hail.
So cold we ate jello with a jackhammer.
So cold hitchhikers held signs that said "anywhere."
Last week, it was freezing in the house when I woke up. My wife said we ought to check that huge, buffalo-sized tank in the basement just to be sure, even though we'd already put most of our life-savings into the last fill of heating oil, a fill we simply assumed would last until next October. I went down stairs. The ancient gauge said a little less than a quarter tank. I banged on it, and the thing flipped to zilch. We were flat out.
The delivery man came by and said he used to have a route of 150 homes with oil furnaces. He's down to 12, with good reason. It cost us our inheritance.
That furnace has been running constantly for the last two days because it's so cold outside that shadows freeze. Seriously, constantly.
An old friend of mine, now long gone, told me that when he was a boy, they could tell how cold it was outside by the thickness of the frost on the nails sticking through the roof in their upstairs bedroom.
I'll tell you how cold it is--it's so cold that this morning, I'm thankful, I swear, for that frightfully expensive oil, enough of it at least to keep the house warm because this morning it's so cold that everybody's funds are frozen. I swear it.
But I'm warm. Sort of.