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Country Roads: Staying warm while trying to be cool

Arvid Huisman huismaniowa@msn.com
Arvid Huisman huismaniowa@msn.com

When it’s 30 degrees outside you might see me running from the car into the supermarket in a light jacket. I don’t like wearing bulky winter coats. Never have.

This month’s cold snap, however, convinced me of the need for bulk. Our office was closed on January 6 because of the arctic temperatures that froze much of the nation. Old country boys like me have trouble idling so I went to the office for a few hours anyway. I get a lot done when I’m the only person in the office.

With the actual thermometer reading 12-below (and a wind chill factor much lower) this was no “light jacket” day, however. I wore jeans and a sweatshirt as well as extra-thick socks. Then I donned my heaviest winter coat and a Carhartt cap with ear flaps. Some days you just have to give in to winter.

During the short walk from my parking place to the office door I remembered my teenage reluctance to wear overshoes and hats. I must have been a lot tougher (or really stupid) then.

My reluctance to wear overshoes began in seventh grade when we still lived on the farm… with a quarter-mile lane. The lane ran east-west so it quite easily filled with snow on a windy winter day. One morning we received a few inches of fluffy snow – maybe two inches total. It was enough to make my mother demand that I wear overshoes. In ample time before the school bus would arrive I took a large push broom and cleared a path from the house to the road where we boarded the bus. Like I said, our lane was about a quarter mile long.

Just as I was completing the task Uncle Stoffer, my mother’s brother, drove in. I could see him grinning as he drove by and when I got back to the house he asked what I was doing. It was simple, I explained, I cleared a path to the road so I didn’t have to wear overshoes to school.

Uncle Stoffer laughed and asked if it wouldn’t just be easier to wear overshoes. Sure it would, I agreed, but it wasn’t cool to wear boots to school. That seemed completely sane and obvious to me, but Uncle Stoffer wasn’t convinced. Decades later he still enjoyed teasing me about clearing a quarter-mile path to avoid being unfashionable. (As if I was otherwise fashionable.)

When I was in eighth grade we moved into town where I could walk to school on plowed streets. Overshoes were no longer a problem.

By this time, however, I had determined that cool guys didn’t wear caps or hats. Though my hair was much thicker then, I wore a flattop haircut (also cool in 1962) which provided no protection from freezing temperatures. I remember my ears aching from the frigid air but no 14-year-old possessing any amount of cool would wear a hat, much less a cap with earflaps.

Through high school I maintained my standards of cool, though I did concede to wearing a pair of ear muffs on the coldest days. Earmuffs could be easily removed and tucked into my coat pocket before we got to school.

Nowadays being cool is not a consideration. My winter apparel is strictly a matter of comfort and common sense. When it’s cold I dress accordingly.

When driving, however, I prefer not to wear a coat. As soon as the car heater is belching out some heat I stop and slip off my coat. My preference is a little unhandy at times but on longer drives I enjoy the freedom of movement. My late brother-in-law used to warn me that if I had an accident or slid into a ditch on a cold day I’d want to have my coat on so I wouldn’t freeze to death. I agreed with him, but still prefer to drive without a coat. I received a lightweight shirt-jacket for Christmas last month and have found it to be a comfortable compromise for cold-winter driving.

There is a positive side to wearing bulky winter coats, you know. If I fall down, I could just stay there until someone finds me and rolls me home.

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