I’m starting to hate cold weather. When I was young, given the extremes between very cold and very hot, I would take the cold every time. I always said I could always put more clothes on, but there were only so many I could take off before I was naked. Nowadays the only time I get naked is when I shower and even then I keep my eyes closed when I go by the mirror or I throw up a little in my mouth. (I’m not kidding. I make Vladimir Putin with his shirt off look good.)
When I was younger I did a lot of ice fishing. I can remember sitting on a bucket in below zero weather with the blowing snow cutting visibility until I couldn’t see the shoreline. I sat there for six hours because the perch were biting, and I had picked up a few bonus walleyes. My feet might have gotten a little chilled, but my biggest worry was whether I could remember which way the shore was. I had drilled a lot of holes and got turned around in the process. (When I ice fish the ice looks like a colander by the time I leave. I’m always sure the fish are just twenty feet over from where I’m fishing.) The blowing snow had covered the tracks I had made on the way out, and I didn’t want to end up wandering around out in the middle of the lake. Finally I heard a car go by on the highway and followed the sound to my truck parked on the shore–I don’t drive on the ice. My luck is such that if there is one weak spot on a lake I’ll find it. I spent six hours out in the open in below zero temperatures and strong winds, and it didn’t bother me. I’d like to say it has to do with my internal toughness, but my wife says it’s just mind over matter. If you don’t have a mind; it doesn’t matter, and that I’d spend six hours sitting on the ice in a snowstorm only proves her point.
Once I was following some mink tracks on the edge of the reeds out on slough ice. I use to like following mink through the snow when they get out on the sloughs. The little devils hit every hole and muskrat house they find as they search for something to hunt. It was about ten below zero on that day, cloudless and sunny. The coldest days are always when there are no clouds. The clouds trap the heat. Without clouds the heat just rises up into outer space, I guess. About two feet of snow covered the ice which insulated it, plus the snow blocks out sunshine which causes the reeds and weeds in the water to die. When the weeds die they rot which causes heat and melts ice. I walked out onto a soft spot of ice, went through up to my armpits before I spread my arms and stopped myself from going in farther. I never touched the bottom. I had to break ice for about ten feet before I could find solid enough ice to climb up on. I was on the far end of the slough. It was three-fourths of a mile to the other side of the slough and another half-mile walk to get to my truck. I once read a Jack London story where he said one of the rules of the north was: “Travel with wet socks down to twenty below zero; after that build a fire.” He didn’t say anything about traveling soaked to the armpits, but I didn’t have any matches so it really didn’t matter. To say I didn’t get cold on the way back would be lying. My pants were frozen, and I was walking like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz–before the oilcan–but I never had the uncontrollable shakes of hyperthermia. I beat on my pockets to loosen them up enough to get my keys out and drove home. Today they’d find me out on the ice curled in a little ball. The cold just seems to penetrate more and quicker.
This all came up because I’m reading the book Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell. For those of you who don’t know, Marcus was a navy SEAL who was the only survivor of a battle in Afghanistan. There’s also a movie playing right now by the same name. I just finished reading the part where he recounts going through BUDS training. He made a big deal about having to go into sixty degree water. Before we had a built-in tub when I was young, I think most of my baths were in less than sixty degree water. Mom would fill up the galvanized tub, and starting with the youngest, we’d all take turns taking a bath. By the time it got to the oldest, sixty degree water would seem warm and a slough would seem clean. I thought about being a SEAL when I was young, but I don’t have the perfect eyesight required and I believe it takes a little more than being able to tolerate cold water. I’ve always admired SEAL’s and all the Special Forces. My latest book County Ops: The Vengeance of Gable Fitzgerald is about a former SEAL. By the way I’m going to put it on sale for $0.99 sometime this month. Stay tuned and stay warm.
(Footnote: My new website is up but not complete. I’m still building. Check it out at http://joeljurrens.com/)