Holten: Getting sick of the cold
Are you getting sick of the cold weather, the dryness, bathing yourself in lotion to keep your skin from breaking apart and buying an ample amount of fuel so that you never have to shut off the heater in your vehicle, no matter where to go?
Join the club. It’s been a long winter.
I have a solution. But first you must realize that, when taking our entire earthen globe into account, where we live is more like Florida than a lot of areas where other people reside.
For example, did you know that in Verkhoyansk, Russia, located 1,500 miles south of the North Pole — the same distance as Los Angeles is from Dickinson — the average January temperature is minus-50.4 degrees Fahrenheit? Not only that but, they rarely get above freezing temps from October through April. So if some of Verkhoyansk’s 1,400 citizens were vacationing here right now they’d probably be wearing Speedos and bikinis, parking their lawn chairs next to that remnant of a snowbank in your backyard and sucking on bottles of Corona stuffed with a slice of lime.
Why do people live there, you ask? Same reason a lot of us live here.
Verkhoynsk started out as a military fort in 1638. It was put there to support what would soon become a burgeoning hub of gold mining, tin mining and, eventually, cattle breeding. It still is, proving once again that people will live almost anywhere if it’ll stuff their wallet.
Later, Verkhoynsk was a place where the Russians shepherded their herds of political exiles in the late 1800s — one of those less-than-desirable Siberian vacation spots that we’ve heard so much about.
Then there’s Fraser, Colo., which sits 8,574 feet high up in the Colorado Rockies, where the annual mean temperature for the entire year is 32.5 degrees and summer nights can dip down to as low as 29 degrees; perfect weather for camping.
Or how would you like to live in a place where the sun sets at the end of November and doesn’t peek above the horizon again until the end of January? That place is Barrow, Alaska, located 1,300 miles from the North Pole, where 4,500 people build their houses on “permafrost,” which means the ground never “unfreezes,” and the average temperature in July is only 40.4 degrees.
Then there’s the coldest of the cold, Yakutsk, better known as the “coldest city” in the world and another place that is located in Russia, between Siberia and Kamchtka.
During the winter, the average temperature drops below freezing in September and doesn’t climb above the freezing mark again until May. In January, the average high is minus-34 degrees and the record low for that month is minus-81.4 degrees.
It’s so cold that when truckers make resupply runs to nearby villages, they don’t turn off their engines for two weeks.
So, you see, in comparison to those places, North Dakota is like a Jamaican paradise.
Still, it was so cold here the other day that a teenager pulled up his pants, Williston dancers stripped down to long johns and the drive-up lines at McDonalds and Hardees were frozen in place.
Somehow, all of this talk about cold weather reminds me of a line by playwright Charles Dickens who once said, “It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”
When I was a teenager, I thought that everyone everywhere walked home from basketball practice after school and combed the ice out of their hair. Until I spent a couple of decades in California and woke up to the fact that you can live in above-zero temperatures, not build a snowman to be your best friend and still be happy.
Therefore, the key to surviving in the cold might be to never leave home, so that you don’t know any better. And also to realize, as Edith Sitwell, the British poet and critic did, that, “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
Holten is the manager of The Drill and the executive director of the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.