Cold Play | January 21, 2021

When it comes to winter weather, my general opinion is that North Dakotans fall into one of two camps.  The first is for those who absolutely love the outdoors regardless of the temperatures.  They have ski racks on their cars and snowshoes in their heart, and you can find them happily hanging out around a campfire or chillin’ in on their deck in hot tub whether the thermometer reads 45 above or 45 below.

The second is for people like me who go inside sometime around November 1st and emerge when the trees begin to bud.  My boss didn’t wear a coat (he kept it in his vehicle) for about ten years because he figured that he went from his heated house to his heated garage to our heated office to the heated restaurant below our heated office and then back to his heated home again, and that was good enough.  Like my boss, it’s not that I don’t love a good sparkle of hoarfrost or a sundog on a frosty morning; I just like it from behind a pane of glass.

I wasn’t always this way.  Back in the days of my youth, when my skin was thicker and my nose hair didn’t freeze, my sister and I would waltz out the door every morning in our snowpants and Choppers and have a grand (c)old time.

Our house backed onto Central Park, which was popular among the neighborhood children for having 1) a metal playground that would burn your butt in the summers and stick to your uncovered body parts in the winters; 2) direct access to the Red River, which you were never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever allowed to go near and you always secretly did; 3) an outdoor hockey rink which also provided dogs a private place to poop in the warm months, and 4) a flood dike.

The dike was by far the most important part of the park because Grand Forks isn’t exactly known for its hilly terrain, and so the dike was our own private mountain.  Back then we were all blissfully unaware of the upcoming Flood of ’97, and so to us kids, the dike existed solely as the means to create a sweet bike ramp or a really rad sledding path.

The best place to sled on the dike was the area we sophisticatedly deemed “Suicide Hill” – a five-foot space between the trees at the edge of the park.  The dike builders had used the space to dump their extra dirt, inadvertently (or deliberately) creating a slightly taller mound on top of the normal mound.  Either God or one of the neighborhood dads would ice down Suicide Hill after the first snowfall, and if you took a running jump on your sled you could zoom all the way to the River.

My sister and I sledded down Suicide Hill roughly 1,000 times.  We sledded down the regular dike about 100,000,000,000,000 times.  I don’t have a dramatic, or even interesting, story about Suicide Hill or sledding in general.  I’m telling you about it because it’s undeniable proof that I went outside in winter.

Let’s fast-forward to now.  I am the mother of two boys, ages nine and five.  I have taken my sons sledding exactly twice.  The rest of the time I have sat nicely inside and waved to them through the window.  I have spent so much time not going outside that Kyle has never even bothered to invite me to our son’s annual outdoor Park Board hockey game…even when my parents specifically drove up from the Cities to attend.

This year, however, our winter weather has been absolutely glorious; I’m not sure it’s dropped below zero yet.  I’ve spent more time outdoors this year than I have cumulatively throughout my entire adulthood: hiking at Turtle River, sitting by the fire by our outdoor rink, wandering around the countryside.  The other day I parked at the back of Target just so I could have a longer walk to the door.  In January.  In North Dakota.

And so when our son’s annual outdoor Park Board hockey game came up, I decided to go.  I don’t have a dramatic, or even interesting, story about the outdoor Park Board hockey game.  I stood on the boards and talked to the other moms and watched one kid play hockey while his brother ran around with the other younger siblings.  It was so nice that I will probably (maybe) reconsider my personal ban on outdoor activities next winter when the weather inevitably goes back to normal.  The photo above is our little goalie during the game.

Speaking of nice things, this week’s news is about a TikTok sensation, a beautiful bridge, and a bookmobile.  Read on.

Williston nine-year-old Karter Rice has gone viral for making smart food choices on a budget. (KX Net)

There are two nice things happening here: the Burleigh County Senior Center has found a creative way to hand out their 150 weekly meals, and they are doing it with the help of a local business. (KFYR TV)

One of Valley City’s eight historic bridges is in the running to be a “Best Bridge Tour” bridge. (Valley City Times Record)

Watford City high schooler Levi Sanford has raised $6,000 to purchase books for the school library. (McKenzie County Farmer)

A Grand Forks mother of four boys has received a new home, courtesy of Habitat for Humanity. (Grand Forks Herald)

Congratulations to Jamestown’s Clara Seckerson, Miss Preteen North Dakota International, and Beulah’s Megan Koehler, Miss North Dakota International! (News Dakota) (BHG News)

Did you know that North Dakota ranks third in the nation for bookmobiles per capita? (Minot Daily News)

(Like Amanda Silverman Kosior and/or North Dakota Nice?  Check out last week’s tale about a trip to Bar Harbor or this other story about our outdoor rink. I also secretly like to write North Dakota/rural crime fiction on the side, and worked up the nerve to have a flash/short piece published, which you can read here.)

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