Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 4:55 PM on Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It may be cold, but it could be worse; just consider ...


A couple of weeks ago, my buddy Turk called me grousing about the incessant cold and looking for some rather unmanly empathy.

As I recall, the conversation went like this:

"Yo Nick, this chill is freezing the elements in my carbon-based life form. My karma has a crystallized aura and I'm grumpier than a butt-kicked wolverine. Got any suggestions ta thaw my funk?"

"Man up, Turk," I answered. "Are moose backing their tushies up to your clothes dryer's exterior vent to try and cop a little heat? Are the slabs of ice bobbing in the bay in front of your front 40 getting so massive the city might consider annexing them?"

"Well no, but I've rammed so many split-rounds through my wood stove that I'm using up more timber than all of the copies of last year's unread bills passed by Congress. I'm talkin' the eradication of a regional forest here. It's depressing."

"Keep the faith, bro. I just checked the 10-day forecast and there's a warming trend headed our way. Does that sound better?"

"Matter of fact, it does." Turk growled. "This crud reminds me of working with you in the high north.

"Remember back in '89 when we were messing around between Prospect Creek and the Yukon River? The static temperature at one old well house was bottomed out at -70. You could throw hot java in the air and it would turn into freeze-dried crystals before hitting the earth.

"Man, it was so nasty that if you were outside very long and jumped into your rig without taking it easy your Jockies shattered. If I remember right, new flashlight batteries lasted about three and a half seconds, candle flames froze and diesel fuel became so thick we had to buy it by the pound."

"You got the temp and the coffee right dude," I laughed. "But I think the other recollections might be the result of your brain cells suffering acute frostbite.

"I have to admit though things were frosty enough that if we hadn't been wearing the proper headgear and sneezed we would have been up picking our ears up off the ground.

"I mean it was so intense that I looked forward to getting a fever."

"I don't think I was the only one that had brain cells suffer from hoarfrost," grumped Turk. "But I have to admit those dusty yarns make this harsh spell a bit more tolerable."

"Yeah, it puts things in perspective."

"'Spose so," he snorted. "You just better pray it doesn't warm up so much it rains. Remember last year and Wild Willie?"

"Yeah, that boy's wound way too tight. Maybe it's about time for him to start drinking his coffee rather than snorting the grounds direct from the grinder. As I've said before, sometimes he acts like he has an IQ score one point north of his dog's food bowl and three points shy of its chew stick."

"Didn't he show up during a soggy sleet storm looking for ideas on how to keep the doors on his junker flatbed closed without permanent welds?" chuckled Turk.

"Yeah, he was finally persuaded that coat hanger wire through the hinges and rusty screw driver handles weren't going to cut it after multiple equipment violations and a court order to have the wreck euthanized.

"It was amazing that he made it down the steep access road. The pathway was already covered with compact snow and rapidly mutating into a bobsled run.

"The maniac's tires were so worn that they lost traction on a dry pavement if the sky became overcast. I was amazed that he didn't go blazing by our turn-off and launch into the bay.

"The old reprobate must have an intern guardian angel frantic to earn its wings."

"That's a fact," Turk rumbled. "I don't know how he's kept the thing on the road. The only discernible lights he's ever had on that beater have been significant engine fires.

"I heard he ended up spending the night. How'd that work out for you?"

"Oh, just great. The next morning W and I decided to be heroes and make a test of the hill with my bride's Explorer to see if it was feasible for her to make it out for work.

"I made it about halfway up before the studs and four-wheel-drive lost grip and the beast started sliding backwards. Fortunately, I lightly tagged a berm, did a 180 and managed a controlled slide back into the yard where I solemnly informed her that she would have to wait until the sander showed up.

"She just smiled, opened the back of the rig and produced a set of chains.

"'I usually put these on," she quipped and got ready to head for town.

"W.W. and I just stared at each other."

"Seems like you can make a chew stick look brilliant sometimes too, huh, bro?" Turk snickered.


Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com if he isn't out in a storm making a fool out of himself, again.