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Ramblin Joe: The worst winter, grilled cheese and music at the Round Barn

Bison Blinds

Another fine Oklahoma January, almost in the books. Hasn’t been too bad, as January goes. Eight more weeks, and there’ll be a reasonable expectation of Spring. Make your plans now. LOL.

What was your worst weather-winter? I still think the one of 1977 was probably the worst for me. I was living in an old parsonage behind an abandoned church over by Nicoma Park. Had a revolving cast of ne’er-do-well roommates and their various girlfriends. I was the only one who ever had a real j-o-b. We wintered in that old house. It was a real shack, but it was sure enough Party Central. I was working for the City of Midwest City, fixing water line breaks and various leaks, etc. I was on call 24/7. I swear, that year it started snowing just after Christmas and it seems like it snowed every three days all the way into March. Memory can cause us to embellish some details, and forget others, but that was quite a bad winter.

City water main breaks were common; an almost daily occurrence. We probably fixed 20 or 30 breaks in the snow that winter. I had an old VW Beetle that ran well enough to get me to work. (Purchased, if I recall, from my brother Pete for +/- 150$.) As all VW fans know, the old VW Beetle is among the best snow cars ever built. This particular little death trap could generally make it to the shop in the middle of the night when some guys’ pickup trucks couldn’t make it. The boss thought I was dedicated, but the truth is that I was just (un)lucky enough to have a car that could navigate those heavy snowfalls and the drifted, iced-over one-lane-clear thoroughfares. I froze and broke throttle cables (if you know, you know) till I finally designed a guitar string cable that wouldn’t snap if a little ice froze up the tube. Batteries died of sheer abuse. Back then, cars didn’t just fire up at the touch of a key. You had to CRANK those cold engines, and you had to tickle the throttle just right to get them to start and run and keep running.

You ever push-start a VW in a foot of snow? I have, by myself. I’d park upslope and dig out a runway in the snow down to the grass. I’d drive to work with an ice scraper and a rag in my lap, and have to reach out the window to scrape the windshield as I drove. The rag was my inside defroster. The radio did not work. The holes in the floor pan caught the slush, which ended up in the floorboards. Man, those were the days, huh?

Hey, you Luther folks! Did you know we have live music at the Round Barn on Saturday mornings? We’ll make coffee.

You can bring the apple fritters. We love tips in the bucket, and it all goes to the Arcadia Historical & Preservation Society.

– Joe

It’s all relative. It didn’t kill me, so it must have made me stronger. It seems tough, now, but at least I wasn’t walking. I’ve read stories about the pioneers having to tie guide ropes between their farm buildings so they wouldn’t get lost in a blizzard and perish trying to get to the outhouse. We always hope that each generation will have it a little better than the last. Maybe that’s so, but when we’ve been around for a while, say 65 or 70 years, we tend to have seen quite a bit more than the younger folks. Old folks usually do have a frame of reference for drastic weather phenomena. We ARE qualified to judge, and to prognosticate, based on experience, so bear with me.

Oklahoma is Ground Zero for weather extremes. We can get frostbitten in the face of an Alberta Clipper, and three months later, we can go to an outdoor concert and stroke out in 107-degree heat. I’ve been here fifty-six years, and honestly, I LIKE it. Though I wish we had more pronounced seasonal changes, it’s still what I’m used to. For long-time Okies, there are few weather surprises. We know what’s up, and we know what can happen. Of some cause for concern is that a lot of folks tend to ignore The Signs. A simple visit to the National Weather Service’s Forecast site every morning will eliminate a lot of guesswork. Or you can watch the local TV weather people, who also get their weather forecast from the National Weather Service. Any old farmer or lifelong fisherman will tell you: BE WEATHER WISE. Don’t get caught out in it. That is, if you do indeed trust science. If you don’t trust science, then reading this isn’t going to do you any good, anyway.

So – think about what you NEED to weather a blizzard, flood, drought, tornado, or any other act over which we have zero control. Shelter, water, food, dogs. (Not necessarily in that order.) Do what you gotta do. If the roads are impassable, it’s gonna be tough to run to Sonic for a burger and fries. If you don’t have an alternate heat source in your castle, better get one.

Back in ’77, we didn’t keep a whole lot of “food” in that old parsonage. We mostly kept “drink” which was the main reason I never had any money but I was young and strong and wiry. I did OK. I ate at the folks’ house, at my girlfriend’s folks’ house, at KFC where my sister worked and at the TG&Y Family Center snack bar where my girlfriend worked. Bless her heart. I sure ate a lot of TG&Y grilled cheese sandwiches that winter. The main heat source in that house was one of those big old natural gas heaters. A BIG one. It had a blower on it, and it would keep the living room and kitchen warm enough for survival. (And parties …)

In 2022, if it’s bitter cold out, my outdoor exposure is usually based on the number of times a certain little old dog has to go out back to pee, etc. Brrrr. Even with this extra layer of fat, a little North wind goes a long way.

Nothing like cold, short, dark windy days to make us want to reminisce. I guess the point is: Y’all be ready. Still some winter to go.

Hey, you Luther folks! Did you know we have live music at the Round Barn on Saturday mornings? The Round Barn Ramblers play Saturday, 10:30 am to 12:30 or 1 pm. Come on out and join us. We’ll make coffee. You can bring the apple fritters. We love tips in the bucket, and it all goes to the Arcadia Historical & Preservation Society.

Y’all have a great rest of the week. Stay safe and uninfected. JB

RESIST – That feeling of invincibility. We are not invincible. Tough, maybe, but fallible as the dickens, and chock full of human frailty. As the great detective Harry Callahan once said, “A man’s got to recognize his

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