My sister and I grew up literally a stone’s throw from the Canadian border. Not kidding. We would sit on the doorstep of a house right beside the “line” and watch people run across so that they could touch the US / Canadian marker, then being able to say that they had been to Canada. We couldn’t see the novelty, of course.
Living so close to the border, it was damned cold. I remember staying home from school because the high temperature that day was going to be -20°. That would translate to approximately -40° in the middle of the night. After a few days and nights of that kind of weather, you wouldn’t even hear the furnace running.
You’re probably wondering why anybody would live in that kind of environment. Simple. We didn’t know any better.
Block heaters were a necessity. Every seen a car with an electrical plug hanging out of the grill? That’s a block heater. Keeps the block from freezing and cracking by keeping the coolant in the system warm. People who had garages used them as an added precaution.
Snow squeaks when it gets real cold. Even with snowmobile boots on. (Another prerequisite. Pretty, no. Warm, YES!!) It’s a fingernails on a blackboard sound and even now (I haven’t lived up there for 28 years) my mind can conjure it up instantly.
I can also instantly retrieve the smell of wet wool mittens from my memory. And how every kid I knew had shiny forearms on their snowsuits from wiping their noses there. Then, I thought nothing of it. Now, EWWWW!!
So, when it’s that cold, you don’t breathe the air directly into your lungs. Makes you cough like a 3 pack a day smoker and your eyes water like crazy, which promptly turns to ice on your cheeks. Breathing it through a scarf is a much better idea.
You would think that being in such a cold part of the country that we kids would be skiers. Uh uh. Cost too much to get to the ski slopes plus lift tickets, skis, etc. We were all skaters. The river behind the fire house that trickled most of the year would turn into our own personal miles long skating rink from November through March. It wasn’t the greatest ice, but we weren’t Olympic skaters either. The weather would warm up and snow, then the cold front would sweep through blowing the snow to kingdom come and freezing anything that thawed. Voila, more ice. If the mood were to ever strike us, we could have skated 10 miles north to Huntington, Quebec or 5 miles south to Constable, NY. Very Hans Brinker.
One more reminiscence before I hang this up. Sledding was another past time that was fun (and dangerous) because we slid down a very long hill that we first iced over with water. Lots of water from the hand pump in the center of “town”. At the bottom of the hill was a huge tree of some sort. It wasn’t good to hit that. If you stayed to the left you would finally come to a stop in the middle of the river. The first time I saw Chevy Chase on his flying saucer in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, I flashed back to Bonner’s hill and all of us with our sleds/saucers/toboggans. And brainlessness.
Did I mention how we did idiotic things? The most moronic had to do with the guys that we hung out with, and icy roads, and hanging on to car bumpers.
I don’t know how any of us lived to tell these stories.
I need a nice hot cuppa coffee.
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