Jerry Nelson: Wintertime Woes

Jerry Nelson
Special to the Farm Forum
Jerry Nelson

Many people in our area have been complaining about how brutal our current winter has been. This leads me to believe that many people have gone soft.

That’s because our winter has been, based on my many decades of bitter wintertime experience, pretty much normal. And a person shouldn’t complain when things are pretty much normal.

The problem is that we have been spoiled by recent mild winters. This led to such troubling behavior as wearing shorts in February or making plans to establish a grove of banana trees in the backyard.

The spot that used to be our garden – and hopefully will be again in a few months – is currently occupied by snowdrift the size of a blue whale. I walked out to inspect things the other day. Our dog, Bella, raced ahead and immediately began to frolic joyfully on the snowdrift, pleased beyond measure at her wondrous new toy. Bella thinks that everything on the planet was put here for her personal playtime pleasure.

Were I a few years younger, I would have been cavorting on and in that snowbank along with Bella. Much of my wintertime boyhood was spent scaling and tunneling into the mountainous snowdrifts that formed every winter on our farmstead.

Our current winter might be cold and brutal, but all of the winters were cold and brutal when I was a kid. We’re talking about consecutive weeks when the mercury failed to rise above zero, and incessant snowfalls that were always belly deep. Of course, I was a lot shorter back then and it didn’t take nearly as much snow to qualify as belly deep.

“Yeah, right!” you might say, “That’s yet another example of selective memory. Everything was worse when you were a kid!”

Wrong! I have viewed online climate records which prove that the winters were indeed colder and snowier when I was a kid. So there.

During that epoch, school wasn’t called off whenever the forecast mentioned the slightest chance of flurries. Classes weren’t cancelled until the snow became so deep that our bus drivers couldn’t open the bus’s passenger door.

There was no such thing as “distance learning” in those days. Had you used that term, people would have assumed that you were driving to a library located fifty miles away.

My siblings and I would stand at the end of our farmstead’s driveway, peering into the blinding snow, hoping that the school bus would get stuck so that we would be late for school. But it would invariably arrive, and we would scramble aboard and peer glumly out the frosty windows, still secretly hoping that the bus would get stuck.

The bus had only one heater, a feeble little device that sat next to the driver and created the same amount of warmth as a birthday candle. As the bus filled, the windshield would begin to frost over due to the increasing number of breathers aboard. The driver would puff mightily on his cigarette (it was common for school bus drivers – and their buses – to smoke), muttering curses under his breath, annoyed that we kids were all exhaling on purpose.

And every so often, the bus we were riding in would become mired in a snowdrift. This was in the B.C. era (before cellphones), so the driver had no choice but to walk to the nearest farm and ask the farmer to extricate the bus with his tractor.

When we finally made it to school, we would casually saunter into our classrooms without so much as a by-your-leave. We were clearly tardy, but for the best possible reason, namely, that our bus had gotten stuck. Our classmates looked at us adoringly, like we were war heroes returning from the battlefront.

Were that sort of thing to happen nowadays the National Guard would be activated, and helicopters and tanks would mount a rescue mission. The event would make international news, complete with a video interview of one of the schoolchildren.

“It was awful!” declares little Johnny, choking back his tears, “The bus’s Wi-Fi went down, so I couldn't even play Mario Brothers Zombie Apocalypse Tomb Raider on my iPad!”

An ancient philosophical question goes: Is it the darkness that makes the light, or the light that makes the darkness? One answer might be, “You should’ve paid the electric bill so you wouldn’t have to surf the internet by candlelight!”

We could all benefit from being more like Bella. Enjoy every moment to its fullest and don’t complain about things that you cannot change. And bear in mind that a bitter winter only makes the arrival of balmy springtime weather that much sweeter.

If you'd like to contact Jerry Nelson to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can email him at His book, “Dear County Agent Guy,” is available at and at booksellers everywhere.