Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Sifoddling Along


By Marilyn Carnell

Living in Minnesota

In a joking way, I say that I am serving my second sentence in Minnesota. To explain: I first moved to Minnesota in 1966 when my husband got a job with the U.S. Public Health Service and found that I had to make a number of adjustments in my life. First of all the social change is huge. Famed “Minnesota Nice” is more like the description of the Platte River by Pioneers -

“A mile wide and an inch deep.” A Minnesotan is very friendly on the surface, but there is another saying I have learned: He will tell you how to get anywhere but the way to his home.”

Other conundrums involved learning to cope with the long winters. It was a year of epic snowstorms. The University of Minnesota closed for the first time in its history due to weather.

We had few adequately warm clothes and were poor as church mice, so I learned to knit hats, scarves, mittens, and sweaters as soon as possible by reading directions in a magazine. I was in grad school studying for a Master’s in Public Health degree made possible by a scholarship. Classes were held on both sides of the Mississippi, meaning I had to walk across an open bridge with frigid winds blowing down the valley. The only thing that made it survivable was a ratty old fur coat that I inherited from my husband’s grandmother. It was ragged, but it was warm. I had no car, so I traveled by bus to and from campus with my three-year-old son, Ben. He attended a nursery school near the campus while I attended classes I would stuff him into a nearby phone booth to shelter him a bit while we waited for the bus to come.

For the next seven years, I worked at General Mills. The company recognized that employees sometimes needed help with transportation so they provided electric hookups at each parking space so we could plug in a device called a “head bolt heater”. I still have no idea what a “head bolt” is, I was only interested in knowing that my car would start in sub-zero weather. When I visited Missouri, people would ask me why I had a short electric cord hanging over my front bumper. One bitter cold day, my ears were frostbitten in the short time it took to walk to my car. I learned to not wear earrings on cold days.

After leaving General Mills, I worked at the University of Minnesota for another 4 years before returning to Pineville to go back to attend the University of Arkansas to earn a Ph.D. in Food Science. I found it much more difficult to drive in winter weather commuting to classes in Fayetteville than in Minneapolis because there was little equipment to handle snow or ice. The prevailing thought was “God put it there, God will take it away.” One memorable morning while driving on black ice, I slid into ditches three times when I stopped the car. Finally getting to the campus unscathed I parked, and the car was later hit by another driver in what I thought was a safe place.

I never planned to return to Minnesota, but fate had other ideas. In the spring of 2011, we lost our home to a flash flood on Big Sugar Creek. In the next few weeks, nearby Joplin was blown away by an F5 tornado and my husband nearly died from a gushing ulcer. While we were distracted by his illness, a second flood destroyed many of the items we had “rescued” and thought were safe. My son and daughter-in-law found a house for us to rent in Minnesota and it was the best option, so I began my second sentence in Minnesota and will remain here until the end of my days. This time I am better prepared for living in cold weather: Instead of a single garage at the end of a long driveway behind the house, there is an attached double garage and I have warm clothes. No shoveling huge piles of snow, there is a nice company that does it for me.

Here are a couple of photos of the big storm in February 2023: The street scene was taken at 1 a.m. I was amazed at how much light was reflected by the snow.

The view from my office was taken through a screen as I wasn’t about to let in the sub-zero weather.

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