I was bitter last week. Bitter cold that is. Talk about ringing in the New Year in style. It was too cold to even go to the dance and supper at New Hradec. I hate missing that.
We had a low of –35. That is cold. Even here in North Dakota. But that wasn’t the worst around. The national weather service had Hettinger as the coldest place on the planet! Not in the nation. Not on the continent. On the entire planet Earth! That includes the poles!
Well, shortly after that was posted on social media, corrections came in. Someone near Marmath, on the Little Missouri, sent in a picture of their thermometer. –52!! I would let Shirley wear my mittens in that kind of deal.
But when we used to feed cows on the river, you could see and feel that temperature drop as you went down through the badlands. I believe it.
I remember one tough winter during the oil boom of the eighties. Pipe was being hauled up from Houston as it is now. Workers were flocking here from southern states much like last oil boom. Winterizing on rigs wasn’t near as good as it is now, and those boys spent a lot of cold days and nights tripping pipe in terrible conditions.
There was a rig drilling not far from the ranch and we were doing snow removal on the location. So we became acquainted with some of the hands over the winter.
One old boy made the best hot sauce I ever tasted. He was an old hand that was dry watching the rig after the hole came up dry. Think his name was Charlie. He had done a little time in the “big house”. He would never really say what he had done, but rumor had it he’d got in a fight over a Cajun queen. Or maybe that’s a song I heard. You be the judge. But he was a fine friend.
One day a trucker came in to use the phone. Being a southern lad, he hadn’t heard of number one fuel and his truck had jelled up near the ranch. Mechanics came out to heat it up and get it going. He wanted to call his boss and tell him what the problem was.
I listened from the other room as he exclaimed to his boss (in a southern drawl), “It’s so damn cold in this Godforsaken land that the fuel freezes. They are digging it out of the lines with a screwdriver!”
Another story that came from the rig one particularly windy day was a guy came down off the rig and met his driller coming up. The driller asked where he was going.
Again in a southern drawl, “I’m just going to get my jacket”.
The driller asked, “Where’s your jacket?”
“Texas!” the old boy drawled.
So, as I explain to Shirley as she thaws her frozen hands, it could be worse.
Dean Meyer is a former state legislator and currently ranches in southwest North Dakota. He has been a featured columnist around the state for many years.