The Other Long Winter


By Millie Ingalls Noe

"It was called, The Long Winter."
My sweet Sven was talking about Chapter A Day. He'd heard it on Public Radio while driving to a job site.
"You mean, The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder?" I said.
"I had to drive around the block a couple times to keep listening," he said.
"That good, huh?"
"It was late October. Laura and her family were living in South Dakota when the first blizzard blew in. The teacher sent the kids home from school. But they could barely see, it was snowing so hard. If Laura had been even two feet over she would have missed the building she bumped into and they all would have froze to death out in the prairie."
"Wow," I said.
"It would not stop snowing."
"Sounds awful," I said.
"Cold air was whistling through the cracks in their walls made of boards. And all they had to burn was straw that they twisted together. Laura said she longed for Wisconsin."
"She longed for Wisconsin?"
"Wisconsin had trees. And trees make firewood."

I let Sven go on about The Long Winter. But of course, I already knew the story. Because I, like every nine-year-old girl of my generation had read the book in fourth grade.
And I would just like to say that even though my cousin, Laura Ingalls Wilder, wrote about a really tough winter. And even though they were always cold. And always hungry. And only had straw to burn.
"If the train could have made it through," said Sven. "They would have at least had flour. They could have at least made bread."
And even though they had to cut their already meager meals down to just two a day.
"But the train got stuck in the snow," said Sven.
I never heard Laura mention anything about a Polar Vortex.
I don't mean to complain.
This winter has not exactly been a joy ride.
I mean, all of November was brown and ugly, with below normal temps.
And then came December.
December was cloudy.
And December was gray.
Just a long, cloudy, gray, month.
Not that it mattered to me.
I spent all of December at work.
In a little gray box.
Made of gray walls.
"There were no supplies left in the store," said Sven.
And you know, my cousin didn't have to open up Facebook every morning either. She didn't have to read all that shit people post out there. She didn't have to watch her nation lose its marbles. She didn't have to witness people not being able to see past the ends of their noses.
People with locked jaws.
Set in their ways.
Set in their ideals.
Nobody budging.
Nobody blinking.
And the damn weather forecasters throwing around the words like polar vortex like it's been a part of our vocabulary since the beginning of time, when you know they stole it from Star Trek.
"Captain, if we don't get our coordinates locked in, we are going to run straight into that polar vortex."
And if you don't think that had Doc riled up.
You are wrong.
Not to mention Scottie.
And Laura didn't have to listen to all the squabbling about which words are correct to say and which words are not.
Plastic, paper or metal straws.
And she didn't appear to be a bleeding-heart liberal, communist, socialist, feminist, baby killer, if she tried to be conscientious about choosing the right words or straw. And she didn't appear to be a bonified gun loving member of the KKK who would shoot anything that tried to climb over a wall, unless it was a baby, if she misspoke or used two straws.
She didn't hear the term fake news day in and day out.
And she didn't have to watch buffoons give up their own opinions to blindly follow buffoons that are following other buffoons.
She didn't live in a time when you were either a Republican or a Democrat.
And nothing more.
She got to think for herself without all the constant chatter.
Just the sound of cold whistling wind.
Of course, she couldn't vote.
And her snowmobile didn't get buried at the other end of the field in the snow, in middle of January, where it still is.
And her dog didn't bark in her face ever since because the walking path ends where the snowmobile sits.
Because if she did have a dog, you know they would have had him for supper.
And her mom didn't decide to call it quits.
And leave the planet.
Without a warning.
Leaving a hole in her heart.
"What's that Louisa?"
Hang on a second.
My sister is yelling something from the other room.
"Oh yeah? Well Louisa, if Laura Ingalls Wilder isn't my cousin, then she's not your cousin either!"
"So anyway," said Sven, "They had to hold hands in order to stay together in the blizzard."
I almost forgot about Sven.
"What blizzard?"
"I don't know which blizzard it was, Millie. They had one about every other day."
"Where were they going?" I said.
"To find the train."

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