"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Winter of 2013-14 tests resilience

"Car clumps" can be hard or soft.
We used to talk about Siberia like this. The weather has made our Upper Midwest seem a forlorn and desolate place.
We have had winters with more snow. But there is something about the sheer persistence of this past winter that has gotten into our psyche.
It's something we can't even dismiss with the "sing-song" voice cadence revealed in the movie "Fargo."
A new TV series continues the legend of "Fargo." It continues the themes of that movie but with all new characters and story line. Get ready for more of the "sing-song" voice. The voice cadence belies the burden we feel as Minnesotans, scraping ice off our windshield or walking over snow with the "crunching" sound underneath.
We kick the "car clumps" off the bottom of our vehicles. Sometimes we walk over snow that seems hard enough to support our weight, when suddenly we find it isn't quite that hard. We have to "extricate ourselves."
We talk about the weather like it's an ominous ghost that is about to inconvenience us again. Sometimes we look to the horizon and don't really see the horizon, we just see a shade of blue. The western Minnesota landscape becomes totally non-descript. A famous quote about Oakland CA is that "there is no 'there' there." Whoever said that should have driven from Glenwood to Sauk Centre this time of year.
Our ability to be in denial about the weather vicissitudes is tested. We use the sing-song voice to try to be upbeat about things that are happening in our community. We talk about church. We ruminate about our heating bill staying higher than it should be.
I have sworn that we aren't going to use our air conditioner this summer. However hot it gets, it'll be fine by me.
Keep in mind that the upcoming summer exists only in theory. We only assume it will come. We use faith to assume summer is coming. Stubborn patches of snow remain, which we learn to just disregard. The snow of early spring is ugly snow. The drifts get dirty. New snow is wet and disappears fast.
Calvin Griffith had to get used to Minnesota weather when he came here. Calvin brought major league baseball to Minnesota. Baseball symbolizes summer. He once recalled an early Saturday morning game his Twins had to play, in order to accommodate the Gophers football game that afternoon. The Twins were playing Detroit.
In the fifth inning the snow started cascading down. The game was called off. Calvin could have used the sing-song voice to indicate "life just goes on," or to change the subject. He recalled thinking to himself: "What the hell have I gotten us into out here in Minnesota."
Looking back years later, Calvin, the acclimated Minnesotan, said "Now I know better." (Us Minnesotans always "know better.") He added: "My memories are pleasant."
In 1962 when the Twins were in their second year, a storm on April 12 snowed out the opener vs. Los Angeles. The storm dumped a foot of snow on the southern two-thirds of the state. The Twin Cities recorded six inches by 6 p.m. on the 12th, making a total of 81.3 inches of snow for the year. Then on the 13th, we got the coldest April 13 on record. A look at the thermometer showed two degrees above zero early on the 13th.
In May of 1976, in the midst of those disco '70s, when we took in those "Smokey and the Bandit" movies, a Twins game was snowed out at Metropolitan Stadium. The Twins were marking Bat Day, a day of some annoyance if you sat under one of the decks. The boys loved it I'm sure. A quick spring storm left 1.2 inches of snow in the Twin Cities that morning. It was May so of course most of the snow was melted by game-time, but the field was soggy and there was snow on the shadowed ground.
These images inspired us to get the Metrodome built. The Metrodome was like a "Fortress of Solitude" (from "Superman") that we could present the world as a way of showing defiance vs. the weather elements.
We never want to admit we've been overcome by the weather. We're aware that there are times when it challenges us, when we come close to saying "uncle." We essentially hunker down.
We ensure the basic health and safety of all of us. School can get canceled or delayed often. When I was a kid and school got called off, the announcement was made on KMRS Radio which had a song all set to be played, beginning with the lyrics "That's what happiness is." That was probably the name of the song. Inspired by the Peanuts comic strip?
Us kids were happy when there was no school in the '60s. That's a politically incorrect attitude today. Today the kids are supposed to appreciate every minute they spend in school, as they are filled with knowledge helping them "succeed in the world of tomorrow," when in fact they'll enter a world ruled by corporate puppetmasters who won't want to pay them a dime more than necessary. The workplace of tomorrow will ironically be "dumbed down," ironic because we're telling ourselves that education (and college) are so important. Lemmings, we are.
We are dazed as we look back on the winter of 2013-14. Eventually we'll be able to put on those sandals and T-shirts. We swear we should have been able to do it by now. Before we know it, the University of Minnesota-Morris graduation will come and go, with a good chance it'll be held inside again. The UMM graduation has a bad track record with the weather.
The high school graduation will then come and go. By then the weather should be accommodative. We ought to be brimming with happiness, but events of our mortal lives can intercede, like the trial set for August of our high school principal who could end up seeing at least 30 years in prison. It could be a plot detail right out of "Fargo." The two "bad guys" in "Fargo" contradicted everything around them.
The new "Fargo" TV series has a quintessential bad guy too. Our sing-song voice cadence seeks to conceal the sobering aspects of our human existence. "Marge Gunderson" overcame the darkness.
We wonder if the principal's trial will be at county fair-time. You know what that means: mid-August is the time of year we begin to feel a chill in the night air. Make way for autumn. And then that specter of winter again. Winter in Siberia.
Sports suggestion
I have made this point strongly before, that the early spring weather is unacceptable for trying to launch spring prep sports: baseball, softball, track.
Where there is a problem there is a solution. Let's have a one-month indoor season with the boys playing volleyball and girls playing floor hockey (unless you have better suggestions).
Then, in May the baseball and softball could begin and continue all the way through August, with the state High School League coordinating with the American Legion. Track would weave its way in somehow. But these early April games are so tentative on the schedule, it gets discouraging. You look at the game results and you see "PPD" next to several of the early games.
I once heard about the U of M-Duluth baseball team making the normal "southern trip" in early spring, like to Florida, but when they got back, weather was so uncooperative, they had to start getting in shape again before playing games.
Our athletic systems must adjust. More indoor sports would be a solution. A "post-season" wouldn't be necessary as the kids could just play within conference, the accent being on fun. That's a novel idea, isn't it?
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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