In honor of a cold week

Published 8:06 pm Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Three Eskimos go to heaven … I don’t have a joke to follow those words, just thought it sounded good in the middle of this week that has all of us hunkered down and trying to stay warm.

I did find a pretty good winter joke, though. At least I thought it was.

An Indian chief was asked by his people, “Great Leader, is the winter going to be cold?”

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The Chief had no idea as to the severity of the winter, but he was a wise chief and advised the men of the tribe to begin gathering wood for their fires. Then he did what all good chiefs do. He got away from the village and found a telephone and called the U.S. Weather Service.

“Is the winter going to be harsh?” the Chief asked.

“Yes, we think it is,” the Weather Service person answered.

The Chief returned to the village and told the tribe that, according to his talk with the Great Spirit in the sky that it was, indeed, going to be a very cold winter. They should double their efforts to gather wood. The tribe hurried to gather every bit of wood and brush they could.

The Chief began to have second thoughts about their working so hard at preparing for the winter that he left the village and made a second, secret call to the Weather Service.

“Are you sure it is going to be a harsh winter?” he asked.

“We are very certain,” the Weather Service adviser told the Chief.

“Just what are you basing your forecast on,” the Chief queried with a little more insistence.

“The Indians are gathering wood like crazy!”

The new year has begun with quite a string of cold nights. As old as I am I’m sure I have seen such a succession of below freezing nightly temperatures, but I can’t remember. That’s only one of many things I can’t remember.

I do recall, however, the coldest night I ever endured. It wasn’t all that hard because I was spending the night in the wonderful Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn. I was working there and the management felt that it would be best to provide a room for those who were working that particular day and night since it was snowing and it was cold.

I awakened that morning and turned on the television to the local news station. It had the temperature posted in the corner of the screen, but I felt that what I saw was a mistake. Surely, it wasn’t that cold. I looked outside the window from the fourth floor room in which I had slept. A deep snow covered the ground and cars.

The weather was being announced on the early morning news and the temperature that I had seen posted in the corner of the television screen was not wrong. The meteorologist reported that it was a record-breaking minus 16 outside. Minus 16! To this day, I have never been in colder weather.

Since our weather isn’t usually this cold for this long, it is a primary topic of conversation. Talking about the weather is, many times, our first bit of conversation with another person. If I might say something very appropriate to this week, talking about the weather is a pretty good “ice-breaker.”

Every conversation about cold weather brings to my mind that Nashville night I just mentioned. What about you? Think about your coldest day or night. It might have been during your time in the military if you served in Germany or Korea. Those are some places with harsh winters.

The harshest of all winters in the world is in Antarctica. That’s ironic to a southern boy who considers everything southern as warm weather-wise. Antarctica is our southernmost continent. Seems to me that it should be the warmest. But no!

The coldest temperature in the history of the world (at least since records have been kept) comes from the southern tip of our planet Earth. The temp was recorded on July 21, 1983. What was it? A very chilly minus 128.6 degrees.

Here are a few more interesting facts about Antarctica. It has 90 percent of the world’s ice and 70 percent of its fresh water. The sun rises only once during the year. Once it rises, it remains day for six months. Then it sets and there are six months of darkness. That brings about new meaning to the literary opening, “It was a dark and stormy night.”

What about the United States?

What is the coldest recorded temperature in our country? Naturally, our northernmost state, Alaska, holds the record. On Jan. 20, 1971, Prospect Creek Camp, Alaska, recorded a temperature of minus 80 degrees. No place or time in our country has ever recorded a lower temperature.

How about the continental United States’ coldest temperature? That record is held by Rogers Pass, Mont., and the date was Jan. 20, 1954. On that date the mercury slipped to minus 70. By the way, Hawaii is the only state that has never recorded a temperature below zero; not below freezing, but below zero.

Let’s get a little closer to home. What about our own great state of Georgia?

Floyd County (Rome is the county seat) recorded a record low of minus 17 in Jan. 27, 1940.

Finally, my quick check of cold weather temps did not result in something for Decatur County, but I did find the coldest recorded temperature for Florida and that was in Tallahassee. I figure that we had a comparable reading for that day long ago (Feb. 13, 1899). Tallahassee dipped below zero by 2 degrees that day, and Florida recorded its coldest temperature. Some of you may remember a temperature even lower than minus 2, but I don’t. At least not around here.

I guess there is always a silver lining to every cloud, even a cold weather cloud. For me, it is an opportunity to wear that heavy sweater I bought long ago. Or that leather jacket that someone gave me, yet it’s never cold enough to wear it.

Well this week, I can go to the closet and get all the heavy coats, even an old overcoat and feel pretty good about wearing it. I hope you have a nice, old coat that you have brought out of the closet this week and have enjoyed wearing it. Enjoyed might not be the right word.