Hunkering Down for the Long Winter

Hunkering Down for the Long Winter

By Sharon Sheppard

When my Washington friends hear that I’m from Minnesota, they give me a pitying look and predictably ask, “It gets really cold there, doesn’t it?”  or “You get lots of snow there, don’t you?”  One woman said, “I don’t know why anyone would want to live there!”

I could argue with her, but what’s the use?

I could tell her that in a recent ranking of the 50 states, Minnesota ranked second highest in the nation for quality of life.  It ranked highest in the nation for health.

Our poverty rate is one of the lowest nationwide, and the employment rank was 6th highest.  But all that most out-of-staters know about Minnesota is that it gets cold here.

Many Washingtonians (and others across the country) have never known the joys of bundling up (we know how to dress for the weather) and heading for the lake.  What could be more fun than ice fishing from one of those cozy (heated) fish houses that dot many of our 10,000 lakes?  Or tobogganing or cross country skiing or snowmobiling across pristine snow?

Few things taste as good as walleyes freshly caught out of a frozen lake, dipped in egg and crushed Ritz cracker crumbs, and deep-fried.  And few things rival the camaraderie of those frosty evening fish fries filled with laughter, conversation, and singing.

When I was a teenager we used to drive cars on the frozen lakes and ski behind them holding onto a rope that was tied to the bumper.  Not particularly safe, but great fun.

Our house was a little on the small side when I was growing up in northern Minnesota, and bedroom space was limited.  As the only girl in the family, I slept downstairs on the living room couch where it was warmer, thanks to our barrel stove—the main source of heat during those early years.  Dad had fashioned the stove out of a 50-gallon barrel—a common practice in that area.  It had iron legs and a factory-made door, and we burned wood in it.  One chilly night as I undressed for bed, I backed a little too close to the stove.  For the next few weeks I sported a tattoo on my bottom that read Farwell, Ozmun & Kirk—the name of the factory that manufactured the door.

P.S.  The tattoo is gone now, and all that remains are the warmest of memories.