Crazy eight is for cards, not my thermometer

Published 11:31 am Thursday, January 4, 2018

By Joel McNeece

I was getting ready to make my first pot of coffee of 2018 and glanced at the thermometer sitting on the window sill above the kitchen sink and it looked like it said “8.”

I leaned in to look closer, certain my early morning eyes weren’t quite awake.

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Nope, they were right – eight degrees. I didn’t know such a thing was allowed here in Mississippi. “The times they are a changin’,” as the great Bob Dylan once sang.

Eight degrees is the kind of cold I think about when I imagine Minnesota and Green Bay.

Many years ago Dr. Bruce Longest and I kicked off our annual NFL trip with a visit to Green Bay. We went late in the year hoping for a true Lambeau Field experience, frozen tundra and all.

We didn’t get it. Kickoff rolled around Sunday afternoon, and it was sunny and 70 degrees. We were wearing short sleeve shirts.

The winter tale from the trip was the walk to the game. We parked in the front yard of a house just across the street from the stadium. It literally sits in the middle of a neighborhood and everyone allowed parking in their yard.

We walked through the man’s backyard and as he told us to “enjoy the game,” we noticed he was dismantling everything on his patio – furniture, a kid’s swing set, even his grill.

“Why are you taking everything apart?” we asked.

“Winter’s coming,” he replied with a smile. Anything you leave out in winter here will be ruined by the time spring rolls back around,” he explained.

He would have laughed at eight degrees. He would consider that a Tuesday, nothing special.

The Lambeau experience we thought we wanted we got the following year when we visited Pittsburgh. During those years we were going to Saints’ away games and Bruce native Fred Thomas, a cornerback for the Saints at the time, was getting us complimentary tickets in the team section.

The fan section for the Saints was at the very top row in the corner of the end zone. We were so high atop Heinz Field we could see over the Allegheny Mountains.

The temperature was just below freezing and a wind of no less than 30 miles per hour blew constantly. We were bundled up so tight not much more than our eyes were visible.

I lost feeling in my hands and feet before the end of the first quarter. My eyes froze by halftime. I couldn’t blink. I never liked the Steelers as a kid. My youthful instincts were proven warranted.

The following year kicked off a several year run where we kept the trip on the West Coast.

Bruce and I always wonder on those trips – Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Detroit, Chicago, Buffalo – how people endure life there in the winter. They are beautiful cities in the spring and summer, but winter, eight degrees routinely. How?

I guess we just have too much Mississippi in us. It was our sentiment after leaving Buffalo in December – you have to be tough to live there.

Back to making that cup of coffee. I turned the water faucet on and nothing came out. I don’t function great in the early morning, so I turned it off, and back on again, still nothing. Looked at the thermometer again. Frozen.

I turned around and Charlie, our yellow lab, was sitting there with his big blue soccer ball in front of him. It’s all he wants to do now. I kick the ball around the backyard and he tries to take it from me.

Over New Year’s it was far too cold outside to be playing soccer – although I was reminded of last year’s trip with the Vardaman Rams to Strayhorn when it was 24 degrees when we kicked off. We scored an abundance of goals in that game, which always warms things up, but it wasn’t until we were back almost to the county line before I could feel my toes again.

Charlie and I decided to take up playing soccer in the kitchen. It’s a little confining. We crashed over dining room chairs and bumped the table around a little, but no harm done.

This early in the morning, however, I had to tell him the game will have to wait. I needed to get some coffee made so I could begin to cogitate what do you wear to work when it’s eight degrees. Whatever it is, I don’t think I have it.

Joel McNeece is publisher of the Calhoun County Journal.