We are in the midst of the winter doldrums. That time of year when time seems to stand still. We are becalmed in a white, frozen Sargasso Sea, progressing neither forward nor backward, our sails slack and useless in the horse latitudes of midwinter.
Nothing seems to move or change at this time of year except for the snow, that is. Snow falls and the wind blows, rearranging it into cadaverous dunes that grasp, zombie-like, at our tires. This icy sargassum is striving mightily to make our cars disappear into the vast emptiness of a snow-choked Bermuda Triangle.
This is also the time of year when people discover what they are made of. Most of us hunker down, mimicking the behavior of our Paleolithic ancestors who passed the long cold in the dank darkness of their caves.
Some of the hunkerers learned they couldn’t take it. They became unhinged and ran from their caves, screaming, “I cannot watch another single rerun of Gilligan’s Island!”
There must have been some runners and screamers among my Viking forebears. When the icy fingers of the winter doldrums began to snake into their brains, they would suddenly bellow, “I’ve got to get out of here!”
They would make a mad dash down to the dock and hop into their longboats. As their sails filled with the bitter winter wind, their wives probably yelled, “Where are you going?” To which the Viking might have replied, “I don’t know. Out!” To which the wife probably replied, “Could you stop and pick up a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread on your way home?”
The winter doldrums are responsible for a lot of stupid behavior. A good example of such behavior would be driving around out in the country until you are thoroughly and completely lost, then getting stuck in a snowdrift.
I know this to be true because I personally witnessed such behavior one midwinter day a few years ago.
I was at home doing writing on the day in question. I was trying to focus on visualizing the process, which, to the untrained eye, looks very similar to staring vacantly out the window.
My eye fell upon a brownish blob in the distance. Closer examination with binoculars revealed that a tan car, driven by a non-local, had become hopelessly mired in a snowbank about three-quarters of a mile east of our farm. I knew the driver was a non-local due to the fact that everybody who lives hereabouts knows better than to try to drive through that spot, which frequently has snowdrifts the size of Mount Everest.
One of the car’s occupants eventually began to walk toward our house. I could see the walker was a young guy. While it was chilly out, I knew it wasn’t deadly cold. I figured the lesson the guy was about to learn would stay with him longer if he had to hoof it for a ways.
When the guy got to within a quarter of a mile of our house, I fired up my old Chevy pickup and drove out to meet him. It at first appeared he had no hands, but then I saw he actually had no gloves and had pulled his hands up into the sleeves of his coat.
It turned out the car was occupied by three college guys who claimed they had been driving around looking for a friend’s house when they became lost and then stuck. They had tried to dig themselves out with a windshield scraper but gave up after half an hour of indiscernible progress.
But, I knew better. I know the wild-eyed look of acute winter doldrums when I see it.
So, I chained my pickup to the car and yanked it out of the snowdrift. The three college guys thanked me profusely, hopped back into their car and drove away. They didn’t offer to pay, nor did I expect any compensation.
I know from abundant personal experience what it’s like to find yourself hopelessly mired in a snowdrift and dependent upon the kindness of strangers. I doubt if those particular college boys tried that particular stunt again anytime soon.
But in the meantime, they had a rousing yarn to spin about how they had found themselves lost and becalmed in a sea of frozen white swells and how a fresh breeze arrived in the form of a wild-eyed stranger in an old Chevy pickup.
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. 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 works full time for Dairy Star as a staff writer and ad salesman. Feel free to email him at [email protected]