The changing perception of cold throughout life

Mychal Wilmes reflects on what he once could and would do in the cold versus what he does now.

The perception of winter and the preparations for it have changed over time, Mychal Wilmes explains. (Pixabay photo)

I endeavored to ignore the cold and wind to walk when the snow crunched beneath my feet. The effort was made more difficult by a glance at the thermometer, which reached 20 degrees F. below zero.

“You’ve gotten soft,’’ the caller said after he’d heard that I’d cut the walk short.

“I’ve just gotten old,’’ I replied.

“You are only as old as you feel,’’ he said.

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Truth is found in that. Kathy, who has never been fond of winter, is making noise about spending next winter in Florida, Texas or other points south. Her thoughts are likely to wane once she delves deeper into the garden catalogs that have been arriving since January. She is convinced that with more effort we can match the vegetables displayed in perfect color.

“Remember when we used to climb the silo to toss silage,’’ the caller said, returning our thoughts to when we two were young and chafed at the necessity to chop frozen silage from the stave silo’s sides. When it warmed the silage cliffs could crumble and cause a killer landslide. It had taken the life of a farmer. If we could pick and choose, there were better ways to go.

Forecasters were predicting a winter storm all week. In the old days, the news caused the gathering up of plastic containers to hold milk should the hauler not be able to make it through.

“And if the power went out, we milked cows by hand,’’ the caller said.

At least we did not worry about the WC, which pulled the silage wagon and manure spreader. Built before World War II, the West Allis, Wis.-manufactured machine was constructed with heavy iron and equipped with a cantankerous personality.

Its kick when cranked was more violent than any cow’s. A crank could easily break an arm if a person got careless. The unsheltered WC never failed to start, though its engine oil turned thicker than molasses in the crankcase. When the gauge showed no oil pressure, it was urgent to find paper feed bags and twine. With the aid of a pitchfork, matches and gasoline, the burning bags and twine heated the oil enough so it flowed again. When snow depth was too deep, manure was piled close to the barn. The location was the same where the farm’s previous owner had buried a used-up work horse or two.

When we were kids digging for night crawlers in its dirt, a few large equine teeth were uncovered. We told ourselves and more importantly told our city-raised relatives that the teeth were from dinosaurs.

The caller took us back to a time when Mother’s table was crowded with hungry people.


“Remember all the pancakes we used to eat,’’ the caller said.

We had contests to see who could devour the most pancakes after chores were done. They were drenched in homemade syrup and butter. The bacon served with them came from Mother’s smokehouse.

Kathy left to buy groceries before the phone call ended. She was determined to fill the fridge to carry us through the coming storm. The bill came to $200, which produced a one-sided speech against the trappings of extravagant spending.

“Who is going to eat all this?”

“Well, we don’t want to run out of food,’’ Kathy said.

We agreed that come Sunday morning, pancakes without bacon would be served. I managed to eat two, far short of the record nine I had eaten when Mother made them.

I had managed in the pre-storm to purchase side pork from the local grocery store. To my surprise it was more expensive than bacon. I fried a half-dozen slices Monday morning before Kathy rose and seasoned it with mustard and memories. It tasted better than years ago when it was often served.

The fault for the expanding waistline is found within — given that the tendency is to eat like there are chores to be done.


Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minn., with his wife, Kathy.

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