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Down the Road

Baby, it's cold -- no colder -- outside
By Milt Gross
Jan 6, 2013 - 6:12:09 AM

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I've seen -- and felt -- it colder than this, but for today, this is cold. Cold enough. A bit colder than cold enough.

When I left the house this morning at 5 a.m. to go drive my little bus, it was about one degree F above zero. The little Toyota Yaris moaned just a bit but started the first time. Always love that. She's never not started the first time.

I too moaned a bit when I got up, but I started too. Only instead of moaning, I mumbled a few religious words.

These are the kinds of mornings religious words come in handy.

I drive a split shift, so when I get done tonight it will also be cold.

And dark, like it was this morning.

My favorite "holiday" is December 21, the shortest day of the year. I've noticed while recently driving my bus down to Bar Harbor, leaving Ellsworth at 6:30 a.m., that I can see much better than on December 20.

And in the evening, driving the group back from Bar Harbor, it stays light, then nearly light, until I get off the island at about 5 p.m. It was dark at 4 p.m. on December 21.

I don't mind driving in the dark. I do mind the idiots with whom I share the dark road, who keep their high beams on high. Do they teach new drivers nowadays that there are low beams? Do they make cars or pickups -- especially pickups and SUVs -- with low beams?

But, longer days taken into consideration -- although not yet much longer, it's still cold out there.

I felt really guilty awhile ago. Around noon I went out to dig a path to our composter and start Dolores' Scion to warm it up before she braves the cold to drive to the supermarket for more kitty litter -- and a couple of other things known as groceries.

When I stepped out onto the porch, four wild turkeys were there gobbling down the sunflower seed we put out for whoever wants it. The turkeys fled for their lives, and I called, "You don't have to leave. I'm not going to hurt you."

But they left anyway. I couldn't have hurt them. I was too cold.

When I first moved to Maine in the bad, meaning colder than today or last night, old days in 1965, we used to drive from Bethel out to Songo Pond to listen to it. On those cold nights, the ice on the pond would shrink and then crack. The cracking sound was more like a series of rifle shots. The sound of those shots lasted longer than we lasted, sitting in the car with the window open listening to the cold.

I won't mention cold-weather experiences I've mentioned before, such as the night it was 20 below and I stuck my finger into the car radiator top to be sure there was enough antifreeze. There was. Funny how antifreeze can burn your finger at 20 below.

There was the time I haven't written about, when I was a reporter, taking photos of workers trying to turn a frozen railroad track switch when it was 12 above or 12 below -- one or the other, can't recall. I only recall how cold my fingers were when I took off my mittens to trigger the camera.

And the time atop a fire tower on Streaked Mountain in South Paris when it was about ten above F, taking photos of a new cabin being helicoptered to the tower to be placed on top to replace one the Maine Forest Service had removed. My camera froze -- not my fingers -- and a forest ranger loaned me his camera to take the photos.

Finally in this series of too-cold tales, one February a group of us ministers fled Maine's frigidity for Connecticut to attend a conference. I drove four or five fellow guys of God down there in our Plymouth Belvedere. Nice car, got us there and back.

The temperature in Connecticut was about 50, if I remember correctly which I may or may not, making the weather during the daylong conference feel like spring to us religious Maineiacs. I don't recall anything about the conference, but I well remember the trip home.

We drove away from the conference church with the temperature still about 50, and we knew it was getting colder as we drove north. By that night, the windows were fogging up from the cold outside and the warm breath inside. We arrived home, windows too fogged to see out them. Only the windshield clear.

As the first minister crawled out of the back seat, a blast of very frigid air hit us.

We knew we were back in Maine on a cold winter night.


Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at lesstraveledway@midmaine.com.

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2012

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