Sometimes winter can be real kick in the pants

Published 9:31 am Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting

“How’s your coffee?”

“It’s terrible. How old is this coffee?”

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“I don’t know. I’ve been working here for only a month.”

Driving by the Bruces

I have two wonderful neighbors — both named Bruce — who live across the road from each other. Whenever I pass their driveways, thoughts occur to me, such as: the law of the shoe says that a heel never gets anywhere without a good sole to lead the way.

Kicking winter

I pulled into the parking lot intent on finding a cup of hot tea. I’d been driving relentlessly over snowy roads and experiencing the wild white yonder in a way that The Weather Channel could never describe. My car was saltier than the Great Salt Lake. As I walked to the store offering tea, I paused when I heard thudding sounds. I looked about me and saw many people, shopping completed or not yet begun, kicking snow boogers off their cars.

Inside the store, I warmed my hands over a steaming beverage as a friend walked gingerly in my direction. He had a hitch in his getalong. After he sat down, he told of a slip on the ice that resulted in a cracked tailbone.

It was another example of what we all know. Winter can be a pain in the rear.

School days

“Keep your mind on your work and your fingers on your hands,” said Mr. Lillesve, my woodshop teacher. Many shop teachers were missing a digit. It was an occupational hazard. A wise instructor used a lost finger to support his warnings. Like dodgeball, shop was a demonstration of Darwin’s Law — the survival of the fittest. It was amazing how many of us lived through both.

I didn’t like wearing gloves to school. My father warned me that I’d freeze a finger off. “Then what will you do?” he’d ask.

I knew what I’d do. I’d become a shop teacher.

Days of yesteryear

We kept cattle. One was a bull the size of a yacht. I’d never seen a yacht but I couldn’t imagine one larger than that bull. The bull was enormous and malevolent. He was drill sergeant nasty. I kept an eye on him. Whenever he snorted or pawed the ground, I disappeared like cologne in a fan factory. My father told me of people gored by bulls, some killed in the attacks. I named the bull Howard. My cousin Howard wasn’t thrilled. I assured him that the bull wasn’t named after him. After hearing Dad’s tales of murderous bulls, I had named the bull after Howard Friedrich — the local undertaker.

Good things

1. A pillow’s cool side.

2. Being first in line when a new checkout lane opens.

3. Having the right amount of milk to match the cereal in a bowl.

Bygone breakfasts

When I was a boy, eggs and sunshine were good for me and I could tell breakfast from other meals by the smell. I’m unable to do that today. Breakfast was served in a hubbub in the belief that a person who ate a good breakfast worked harder, lived longer, and never got fat. It was important not to get fat. You wanted a lean dog for a long chase.

Nature notes

A reader asks why he doesn’t see the breath of a bird at a feeder. Water is suspended in air as vapor. The concentration of water held decreases as the air cools. Condensation is the conversion of a vapor to a liquid. You are able to see your breath as the water in it condenses when the temperature has fallen to a level at which your breath has more water in it than the air can hold. Birds have a better system of recycling water from their breath than do most warm blooded creatures. Birds’ nasal cavities are designed to strip as much water vapor on exhale as possible allowing it to drip down their throats. This allows birds to remain hydrated more efficiently than most other animals. It’s rare, but not impossible, to see a bird’s breath on a cold day.