February 17, 2014 | Vol. 95, No. 39

Frigid weather prompts toasty memories

To the Editor:

During the so-called “polar vortex” of December, and the continuing brutality of the current season, I am reminded of an old friend of mine, a member of one of the nations within our nation. He once told me that his people never asked one “How old are you?,” but rather, “How many winters have you?”

Having spent most of my winters in northern climes, I have come to value this time of year, not only as a character builder but a true test of my Scandinavian heritage.

I grew up in Minnesota, where there was evidently no such thing as “wind chill,” at least according to our mother, a former resident of Ramsay. During weekends and the school holiday break, eventually Mom would suggest that my brother and I put on warm clothing, grab our hockey sticks and skates and head to the rink down in the hollow by the creek. Dad, who hailed from Jessieville Location, tended to agree, so off we went.

It should be noted that the sport of ice hockey in the state of Minnesota assumes an aura of a quasi-religion. This is especially true at the high school level, akin to football in Texas and basketball in Kentucky and North Carolina. Growing up, we tried to emulate players from “Up North,” those from Duluth, the Mesabi Iron Range and the small border towns, skaters as talented as their “cousins” over in Ontario and Manitoba.

Later, my brother and I were both members of teams that achieved some relative success. More importantly, we actually had fun playing our game. It was an era in which parents and fans let the coaches coach, the referees referee and the players play.

Alas, my dream of skating for the Montreal Canadians never did materialize. My fondest memories are about outdoor rinks, ponds and a warming house down in a hollow by a creek. It was heated by a wood-fed oil drum stove, and ac ircle of teammates and friends, a common fellowship of uncommon value.

Now, back here in the U.P. when I begin to feel the bitter cold, I think of those special days. They light a glow within that continues to deny the existence of something called the “wind chill factor.”

Thomas Ylsabeck

Ironwood