What’s Happened to Winter — and Some Memories of Colder Winters Past

joedarby

Sure, we’ve had a couple of chilly spells, but I want to know what’s happened to winter.  I do believe this is the warmest Louisiana winter I have ever experienced — and that’s a lot of Louisiana winters, I tell you.

Mary’s delighted that the trees and the blossoms are in early bloom and that her new bed of pink tulips came up nice and pretty.

I’m glad spring is about here because that means baseball season will soon start.

But, doggone it, winter’s supposed to be cold.  And sometimes it has been.

I remember perhaps the coldest day I’ve ever experienced.  I was attending LSU and the thermometer dropped to 9 degrees that morning.  I picked up my buddy, also named Joe, and proceeded to the campus.

But, wouldn’t you know, on the way I had a flat tire on my car.  The only thing to do was change it.  A healthy 20-year-old kid would never have thought of calling for road service in those days.

So, I went about my job, loosening the flat tire, getting the spare out of the trunk, taking off the old, putting on the spare, tightening it up, etc.  I had to take off my gloves to be able to manipulate the lug nuts and other things and pretty soon I couldn’t feel my fingers.

Not only was I miserably cold, but I was chagrined that Joe elected to stay in the (relatively) warm car, while I did the work.  At least he could have helped me get the spare out of the trunk, don’t you think?

So, re-tired, we went on our way, but I stopped at a bar in downtown Baton Rouge to get a straight shot of whiskey, although it was only about 9 a.m.  I’d heard that booze warmed you up and I definitely needed warming.

Of course with all this I was quite late to my journalism class.  I walked in, still shivering because I’d had to walk across campus, and I explained to the prof, in detail, what had happened.  He and my classmates had a good laugh and none of them begrudged me my morning tot of liquor.

Another bitter winter day occurred when I was taking a train from Baton Rouge to Tulsa, to represent LSU at the national convention of a professional journalism fraternity.

Well, I had to change trains in Neosho, Missouri.  It was the middle of the night, snow was about two feet thick on the ground and the train I needed was at a different station, across town.

I asked the station master if I could get a taxi to the other station and he said, “Well, no, we have only one taxi and he quits working about midnight.”  So I got directions to the other station and started out walking in the snow.  I walked in the streets, where the snow was only a few inches deep, rather than two feet.

I knew my chances of getting to the other train on time were slim and none.  But after a while, a car came along, I quickly assumed the pose of a hitchhiker, with my thumb out and those nice Missouri folks actually picked up a young stranger at about 2 a.m.  I guess we were both lucky that neither of us were mad killers.

As I got to the other station, the conductor was picking up the steps that led to the passenger cars.  I hollered for him to wait and ran as fast as I could to the train.  He waited for me, of course, and it wasn’t long before I was snuggled in a nice warm coach, on my way to Tulsa.  I suppose the adventure would not have been nearly as dramatic if it had been summer.

Okay, one final winter story.  Some years ago I was to ride with Grela, the major Carnival parade in Gretna, across the river from New Orleans.  Well it turned out to be the coldest Mardi Gras in memory.

So I set a personal record that day for layers of clothing.  I had on two layers of thermal underwear and I can’t tell you how many shirts and sweaters and pants and socks.  I could hardly move.  My arms stuck out straight, like the Pillsbury Dough Boy and I waddled when I walked.

But, again with the assistance of liquid warmth, I enjoyed the ride, managed to throw my beads and other goodies to the freezing spectators and then went back to my warm news bureau to write a story for The Times-Picayune about what it was like to ride in a West Bank Mardi Gras parade..

You know what?  Considering the above stories, maybe I’m not so disappointed that we’ve had a warm winter after all.

2 thoughts on “What’s Happened to Winter — and Some Memories of Colder Winters Past

  1. I grew up in that corner of the Ozarks. The Route 66 culture is great. I spent a few winters in Kalispell, Montana. My nose would often bleed.

    • Nicholas, here’s a couple of things that I find of interest. I read a few years ago, long after my trip to Neosho, that Neosho was a wide open town early in the 20th century and that Bonnie and Clyde, among others, liked to hang out around there. Also in that region is a great Civil War battlefield, Pea Ridge, Ark., where men of he 3rd Louisiana, from Natchitoches among other areas around Louisiana, fought. Joe D

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