Winter’s final phase means it’s safe to dream again

WestWordsWEBSo, now that daylight savings time has arrived, have you been enjoying your evening strolls outside once again?

I didn’t think so. This March, the roads are narrower than ever, and one would need a snorkel to avoid succumbing to some of the splashes made by passing motorists.

Winter comes in three phases. The first phase is anticipation. This occurs with the first snowfalls in November or December.

As the first few flakes drift down, we run from window to window as if snow is a miracle we’ve never seen performed before.

Usually, it’s a wet snow, so then many of us charge into the yard to make snowmen or snow angels.

We take the snow shovel out and attack the walk with a vengeance, polishing off the first feeble attempts of Old Man Winter, and saying to ourselves, “That wasn’t so bad.”

The holidays then arrive and many of us are so busy we don’t have time to think about the weather except on Christmas Eve, when we wonder if relatives will arrive on time for the festivities.

Then, soon after the first of the year, the second phase arrives. The temperature finally hits zero, but we Minnesotans put a brave face on. Late January and early February are the dates of the state’s giant ice fishing contest.

We put on our snowmobile suits and brave the elements, no matter how close to absolute zero the mercury falls. We go out on frozen lakes with nothing but an ice auger, turn our backs to the wind, and drill down three feet, then drop in a line in hopes of catching a minnow, winning a prize.

We say to ourselves, “Ah, Minnesota. We’re tough birds who live here. We can handle this.”

And yet the winter continues, day after day, week after week.

Finally, the last phase sets in come late February. Spurred on by sporadic bouts of cabin fever, we bolt from our igloos to attend one of three events.

The first is the Car Show. We may not be in the market for a new car, but we go anyhow. It’s just so darn nice to look at clean and polished vehicles instead of the corroded, rust-brewing hulks that we use to travel winter roads.

It’s great to smell that new car smell instead of the odor of damp mittens the kids left in the back seat or to look at the sand and salt accumulating on the floor mats.

We start thinking how much fun it will be to have a nice car again, once the weather warms up enough to clean it.

The second event is the Farm Luncheon. Implement dealers, livestock markets and co-ops almost all hold their Customer Appreciation Day this time of year, knowing that in just one more month, their customers will be too busy to talk to them.

Farmers walk in, dressed in parkas, snowmobile suits and mukluks, talk as if they haven’t seen anybody since Christmas — which in some cases they haven’t — and enjoy a fine free repast of sloppy joes, potato chips and ice cream. It’s almost enough to make a person feel human again.

The third and best event is the Home and Garden Show. This event is where a person can truly dream about spring and summer.

We go there to sit in patio chairs, not because we need new ones, but because it’s just so nice to have those associative memories of basking in the sun on a warm summer day.

This year, the Secretary of Agriculture at our house and I went to the Minneapolis Home and Garden Show. It’s probably been 20 years since I’ve been in the Minneapolis Convention Center.

We started toward the Garden section, but were delayed when the Secretary came upon a place that was selling jewelry cleaner. It came in the form of a paste based in orange and pineapple juice. The guy at the counter took her wedding ring and in a few minutes had it sparkling more than the day she first put it on. Thirty dollars later, we were able to continue on.

Then we came across a booth offering, for $12,000, to send someone out to build a volcano in your yard. I know, I know. You’re thinking, “I’ve got to have one, but what do I get for $12 grand?”

The booth had a 10-foot high cone-shaped monstrosity that would stand out in any neighborhood. But the sign prefaced the $12,000 price with “starting at. …”

Maybe the 10-foot high model is $20,000 or $50,000. Maybe for $12,000, all you get is a three-foot high pile of bricks  and a steam kettle. I didn’t inquire, but that’s the important thing about a Home and Garden Show. It’s a place to dream, not to do business.

So I speculated on what one could get with a $20,000 volcano. Could one get real molten lava oozing across the lawn, cutting down on mowing time? Or is it just gray sandbox filler that blows in your face every time a breeze comes up, kills the grass and makes neighbors smug in knowing they still have their sanity?

I didn’t inquire. All I know is that after enjoying a fine repast of sloppy joes, chips and ice cream for $10 each, we finally made it to the Garden section and bought a few starter plants based on the unshakeable faith that this winter can’t go on much longer.

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On Friday, March, 8, Gov. Mark Dayton announced that he was withdrawing his plan to place a sales tax on business-to-business services. I salute the governor for figuring out that his plan had no chance of passing the Legislature, although it’s still troubling that no one in his administration understood business well enough to know that beforehand.

My column last week, which described how much the plan would hurt Minnesota newspapers, was written before the governor’s announcement, and by the time I learned of his change of heart, the issue had already gone to press.

Tom West is the editor and general manager of the Peach. Reach him at (320) 352-6569 or e-mail tom.west@ecm-inc.com.

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