Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - February 4, 2022
Wintering in Wisconsin
Our planned two-week trip to the Great White North of Wisconsin last month had some twists due to several unexpected events.
The plan had been to connect with daughter Katie, son-in-law Matt, and husband Art's cousins Jeff and Kris and their spouses.
We would stay in Art's family home while continuing our preparations to sell it.
Having been there in the winter before, I came prepared. I had my long underwear, a heavy coat with a battery-heated liner, thick gloves, and a hat that covered so much of my head that in other circumstances, I'd be embarrassed to be caught in it. But I do value comfort over fashion and have no qualms about being over-dressed compared to native Wisconsinites, who, when we arrived, were wearing only sweaters or sweatshirts as outerwear.
During our first few days there, Art fit right in with his shorts, long-sleeved shirt and lightweight sweater. Then the sub-zero weather arrived and even he succumbed, adding a jacket, long pants and lined gloves. During the colder temperatures, we limited our outdoor forays to only essential matters, such as buying groceries.
The upstairs hallway is unheated, so nighttime trips through it from our bedroom to the bathroom made me want to crawl back into bed as quickly as possible. Yet once back under the covers, that voyage seemed somehow satisfying. Jumping into a still-warm bed is never more enjoyable as when you�ve been somewhat chilled.
Some foods seem more appropriate to certain weather conditions, and Art's decision to make a big pot of his mom Donna's version of chili - what I call goulash - was a perfect fit. It served as the basis for several meals. I baked a cherry "hillbilly pie" from my late mother-in-law Rita's recipe. Alone or with of ice cream, it made a great end to a meal.
The temperature dipped as low as -6 degrees and only once reached beyond the 20s. Watching bundled-up children walking to or from the nearby school and the neighbor across the back fence shivering while her dog answered nature's call, made me thankful I didn't have to get out into the bitter cold.
Scientists say the more mass a body has, the more easily it stays warm, and I think that explains something about Art's and my difference in comfort levels in the winter. I suppose if I were to actually live through a whole winter in Wisconsin, I might eventually adapt.
Back home in Kansas, folks were on a roller-coaster ride of temperatures in the 50s and 60s for a few days, followed by several in the teens. A friend sarcastically asked me if I realized that many people go south for the winter, not north. Brother Dave reflected a typical Kansan's reaction to the trip, asking, "Are you crazy!"
Despite saying inside, we didn't lack for things to do. We worked on the French version of our book about Morganville, Kansas adopting F�ves, France, did some writing, researched family history and sorted through more of Tommy's belongings. Art's brother died a year ago and it's been a head-scratching one, as we try to wrap our heads around his hoarding. Our rather leisurely pace of preparing the home means we are still discovering "treasures," some that had belonged to Tommy and others to their parents. I found 10 more jigsaw puzzles, a glass Pyrex casserole dish, and numerous books about Green Bay Packers coaches and players.
While I was perfectly satisfied staying indoors, Katie and Matt seem to have embraced their first winter in Wisconsin. They were excited to use Donna's snow blower, experiencing first-hand a typical Northerner's rite-of-passage. They never flinch from taking walks with their golden retriever Willow - even going so far as to buy booties so the salt used to melt ice on streets and walkways doesn't crack her paws. One weekend, they took in a University-of-Wisconsin women's hockey game. Matt was also excited to be gifted Art's family tip-ups used to go ice fishing as Matt said he'd been wanting to give the sport a try.
We lengthened our stay because Kris and hubby Jim had a COVID scare that required some prudent quarantine time. Shortly after their tests came back negative, we were able to meet several times. Art helped Kris get their Smart TV working and replaced a bad kitchen receptacle. Unfortunately, Jim had an accident with their truck, prompting him to become preoccupied with locating another.
Given all my complaining about the cold, what I'm going to say now is going to sound unusual coming from this Kansas hot-house flower. Another reason we went to Wisconsin was to experience winter. Since Art grew up there, it's not odd that he wanted to go, but me? Well, yes! I confess I rather enjoyed looking out at lawns covered with snow, broken only by the occasional trails of squirrels searching for long-buried acorns. During our stay, the snow didn't melt one iota. And while it shocked me to open the back door and be struck with a wind registering in the below-zero range, it was also somehow fun.
I mentioned to Art on several occasions that it felt more like the "real" winters I remember growing up in Kansas. I fondly recalled playing with Dave and sister Gaila in the snow, battling each other with what I remember as yard-long icicles we had broken from the eaves of our house, and riding on the sled Dad had tied to the back of the pickup.
So, as we packed the car to head home, I had to admit that "wintering in Wisconsin" had been quite a satisfying adventure.
Top-left: (l-r) Gloria, Jeff, Art in a typically reserved state, Jeff's wife Lorraine and Kris; bottom-left: Gloria in her winter wardrobe; bottom-middle: Willow with a snow-covered snout; right: Gloria (inset) holding a tip-up. Diagram of tip-up on the ice of a lake. When the fish grabs the bait fish and swims away, the attached line causes the reel on the submerged portion of the tip-up to rotate. A tab on the reel then pushes a wire out of the way, causing it to turn. The wire's top end pushes the spring-loaded flag to be pushed off the holding ledge, causing it to spring upward as in the inset and alert the fisherman of the bite. (Diagram from fieldandstream.com.)