I recently became aware of something called the Darwin Awards, a spoof prize handed out to persons who voluntarily remove their DNA from the gene pool via a blatant act of stupidity. Think of it as a final honor for the demise of the unfit.
     It seems like whenever we have a blizzard some doofus ventures out into the tempest in an effort to become a Darwin awardee. Were it not for the good graces of modern-day rescue teams, we would have numerous winners every winter.     
     A recent blizzard is a prime example. The storm was a real widow-maker, a bona fide Arctic hurricane, complete with heavy snows and winds gusting to Mach 1. Interstate highways were closed and classes were cancelled. Life froze to a halt.     
     At the height of this midwinter cyclone, a trio of teenaged boys decided to hop into their car and do some road hunting. Great idea. Although I doubt if any wildlife was sitting at the roadside during that storm.     
     The boys’ car – surprise – became mired in a snowdrift. One of them set off on foot to fetch help and spent some quality time with the subzero wind chill. He somehow survived with only minor frostbite.    
     What were their parents thinking? Did they think that a group of young people whose mantra is, “Hey guys, watch this,” could handle such a situation? Had the outcome been different would they have proudly displayed the boy’s Darwin Award on their mantle?     
     In all fairness, I clearly recall what it is like to be a teenaged male. I know how it feels to be charged with testosterone and ideas and boundless energy. Teenage boys have a deep need to go outside, to go somewhere, do something, anything.     
     Dad would tap into this energy source at chore time. That is how I learned what it is like to carry 5-gallon buckets of grain amidst a blizzard. I discovered snowstorms are more than annoying; they are out to kill you. Tromping through thigh-high white-cold quicksand can quickly exhaust even the most athletic teenaged male.
     During winter storms, my seven siblings and I would huddle beside our prehistoric oil stove and stave off Cabin Fever with marathon games of Monopoly. Tempers often flared; altercations erupted over such things as whether or not the banker could give himself free loans. All Dad had to do to calm the waters was suggest that it must be chore time.     
     The worst case of Cabin Fever I have ever witnessed happened some years ago when we suffered an old-fashioned three-day blizzard. I became stranded at my parents’ house (where our dairy barn was located), and my wife and our two young sons were stuck at our house.
       My wife and I stayed in touch by phone. This seemed somewhat weird as she was only five minutes away under normal circumstances. But I was not going to risk freezing off any important appendages so I could sleep in my own bed between milkings.     
     My wife assured me she and the boys were perfectly fine, that they had a warm house and plenty of food. “Don’t worry about us,” she said with a motherly chuckle. “We’ll bake cookies to pass the time.”     
     The storm continued to rage for another two days, tearing at the house like a gibbering demon. On the evening of the third day, I called my wife to see how she was holding up.     
     “I’ve baked every kind of cookie known to mankind and now we’re cleaning the house,” she said. “I tried to get the boys to help by making a game of it.”     
     “How did that go?”     
     “The boys didn’t really like Dust Bunny Hunter,” she replied, sounding strained. “I’ve scrubbed the entire house and put all of our canned goods into alphabetical order. Did you know that we have six, yes six, ha, ha, ha, cans of beans?”
     “Um ... do you realize that you imitated The Count from Sesame Street just then?”
     “You’ve got to get me out of here,” said my wife, her voice quavering. “If I have to watch one more episode of Scooby-Doo I’m going to scream. And Mr. Rogers. Nobody can be that nice all the time. Nobody! I miss adult conversation. All I want is to have a meal with someone who doesn’t demand animal crackers for dessert. I hate to admit this, but I even miss my job. You need to get over here as soon as you can with the tractor and the snow blower.”     
     And, so I did. Because I have learned blizzards are not the only force of nature that command respect.
    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.