Considering the weather, are we crazy?
It would probably be very hard to come up with an insanity defense for Minnesotans in the month of January.
How in the world would a defense lawyer explain all the lunatics on the road at 7 a.m. this past Monday? Highway 210 was full of them. The wind was whipping snow snakes across the road and approaching traffic was just a pair of headlights in the inky darkness. The radio was blaring country music amidst warnings of "really" rough weather ahead for the Red River Valley.
As a native of the Gopher State I take pride in the mystifying heartiness of my fellow Minnesotans. Minnesota star quarterback Brett Favre showed a lot of courage last Sunday night in New Orleans as he kept getting up after being knocked down, but what about that mother of three from Clitherall who was on that road at 7 a.m? She was going to work and no one was paying her $12 million a year to risk her neck.
There are practical reasons for living in Minnesota -- a job, family and friends -- but someone visiting from another planet, or even California, would have a tough time seeing why anyone would want to be here in deep winter. It is dark most of the time, it is cold all of the time, the roads are dangerous, the weather can turn on a dime.
My sister, niece and brother-in-law live in a Bay area suburb in California. He is in great shape because he walks his dogs twice a day up and down steep, beautiful tree-lined sidewalks. From the top of a hill near his home, you can look out across the shimmering, blue waters of San Francisco Bay. He stops for coffee, rolls and a paper on his daily ritual. He commutes to his job in San Francisco and seems fairly rational, well-read and well-adjusted.
In all the time I have known him he has been to Minnesota just twice and only one of those trips was for pleasure -- that was a trip my sister talked him into making a few summers ago. The memory he took home from that trip involved hordes of biting mosquitoes. For him, that trip was like spending a week in the Infernal Pit. He does not like Minnesota. He does not like Minnesota in the summer when many of us think we are living in Heaven because our cars will start without a jump.
On our last trip out to California I asked him why he liked living five miles from the San Andreas Fault in a huge metropolitan sprawl. He said he liked the weather. He also told me about the time he left California and returned to the East Coast where he had grown up. Having lived in California, he no longer saw the great appeal of New Jersey so he returned to his adopted state.
When you talk to people from other parts of the United States and you mention that you are from Minnesota they will usually start to shiver, even if the mercury is standing at 100 degrees Fahrenheit at the time.
We tend to forget that Minnesota is a northern tier state. Most of the United States are south of us. From Wadena, you can be in the nations's ice box, International Falls, in a few hours by car.
We live in one of the harshest climates on Earth. They talk about Siberia being rough and it undoubtedly is because they punish people there, but what about our weather and some of our temperature swings? The howling winds of the northern prairies drove some of the early pioneers crazy. The wind chill in northwestern Minnesota last Monday night was around 50 below zero. Six months from now we might have a heat wave that sends temperatures in the same part of the state close to 100 above. Both of those marks will get people's attention and in between them they will say "it's a little cool or it's a little warm." They will complain about having too much rain or not enough. They will be glad when a tornado misses them, they will head for high ground during floods and they will listen to the crack of lightning during a thunder storm.
After all, this is Minnesota.