It has been known to get a bit chilly in this part of the world.     
    There are times when the mere word cold simply cannot do the situation justice. We Northerners have thus concocted sayings like, “It’s colder than polar bear snot” and “It was so frigid this morning that I saw two cottontails trying to jumpstart a jackrabbit.”
     Winter is the season that tries our souls, not to mention our tractors and pickups. When it is deeply cold – when you regret not keeping your brass monkey indoors last night – we who battle the cold each day find ourselves fretting about frozen cattle fountains and the gel point of diesel fuel. We hope the engine will start even though its oil closely resembles chocolate pudding.     
     The simple act of venturing outdoors can be a major undertaking during our winters. Getting all those layers zipped up and buckled down makes you feel like an astronaut preparing for a spacewalk. You quickly learn to be prudent regarding your fluid intake.    
     Dad was always prepared for battling the cold. He was a big believer in thermal underwear or t’ermerwear as he called it. He would don his t’ermerwear about the first of August and kept it on until half past July.     
     I have never been quite that attached to my t’ermerwear. But during a prolonged cold spell, I can become so habituated to my t’ermerwear that it feels like I am skinned when I take it off.     
     This problem has its roots in my childhood. As a youngster, I had to help with the chores on our dairy farm. I was outfitted with t’ermerwear except with shorter legs.     
     Back in Medieval times, kids were sewn into their winter clothes in the fall and kept in them until spring. This would have suited me fine; it was my parents who insisted I strip down and take a bath every Saturday night even when I did not need one.
     I recall taking my Saturday night bath as winter winds guttered and moaned outside the window. Looking at that diaphanous pane of glass, I knew that cold – bone-chilling, kid-freezing cold – was mere inches from my tender nakedness. What if the window suddenly broke? I would be defenseless; by the time my parents discovered what had happened, I would be a kidsicle.
     And my discomfort did not end there. Come Sunday morning, I had to attend church and Sunday School. This meant I had to wear my Sunday duds, which consisted of blue polyester pants, a complementing polyester shirt and polyester jacket. This torturous ensemble was completed with a necktie that felt like a polyester hangman’s noose.     
     Since it was Sunday, I was not allowed my t’ermerwear. This was because it was the Sabbath and long underwear fell into the everyday clothes category.     
     In the few moments it took to walk from the house to the car, the legs of my polyester pants would turn into crackling plastic tubes. A gust of wind would push a frosty draft up from below, robbing my legs of every last vestige of warmth. It was enough to make me wish we were atheists.     
     Once, as a youngster, I got up in the middle of a frigid winter night to use the bathroom. I paused at an upstairs window and gazed upon a farmstead that was bathed in subzero moonlight. It appeared the entire icy world was hibernating.
     From down in the barn came the clink of a cow rattling her stanchion. A plume of steam curled silently from the barn’s cupola. A rifle-like pop from out in the grove told me a tree trunk had split due to the frost. Moments later I heard the eerie, whinnying cry of a screech owl.     
     I shivered, but not entirely from the cold. We kids had been told that owls are privy to secrets concerning death and ghosts. The owl’s call doubtless meant somebody nearby was about to croak. I crawled back under the covers, wondering who it might be.     
     The next morning, I stepped out into the frozen pre-dawn stillness to begin chores. From directly behind me a booming who-who splintered the brittle silence. The unexpected racket scared the stuffing right out of me. After gathering my shattered wits, I looked up to see a great horned owl perched atop our rooftop TV antenna.     
     I was suddenly seized by the urge to go back into the house and put on another layer of t’ermerwear. Because if an owl takes one look at you and figures you for a goner, then baby, it is cold outside.
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, S.D. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: jerry.n@dairystar.com.