Mandan News

Ulmer: Learning to deal with the cold

Either of my loyal readers know that I’ve been helping my carpenter son build my engineer son’s house this fall and as a result I have spent more time out in the cold this year than ever before in my life.

Layout 1 (Page 1)The project started kinda late, like early November, but the weather was tolerable for a minute there. Come to think of it, I don’t think a day went by when I took off my coat or my gloves. The upside of building an entire house is that there’s so much work the help rarely sits down from the time they arrive until they leave.
The downside for those of us on Social Security is that we really aren’t conditioned for this type of physical engagement. The contortions of hoisting plywood onto a roof, or climbing around walls and such, seem to awaken muscles that heretofore were unknown. So it’s not uncommon for me to exude a substantial amount of moaning and groaning as I take on the assigned chores. By the end of any given day I find it difficult to get up the stairs when I get home, and going to bed by 8 p.m. becomes the norm.
As the temperature dropped below zero, I had to find more appropriate attire so I purchased some long johns and flannel-lined jeans. Up to this point I have never really found any use for long johns, so when first donning them I didn’t pay much attention to where the front and back were … until I had to relieve myself and discovered I had put them on backwards.
Facemasks are a must in this type of weather to cover the only exposed skin left on my body. This is especially important when the wind is blowing, as the wind chill has a propensity to instantly freeze exposed skin. We call this situation the “tear your face off winds.”
Very few folks realize how the wind affects any given day on the prairie except those who have to spend their days outside. The winter winds can be terrifyingly cold, and we’ve learned to spend as much of our day with the winds at our back as possible because facing into the wind accelerates our intolerance to cold.
The trick to tolerating the cold seems to involve movement. As long as I keep moving, tossing boards, cutting boards, hammering and such, I seem to stay warm. Once I end up standing around waiting for someone to finish a task, it doesn’t take long for the cold to creep in. When this happens, I usually hunker into my facemask, shift my weight from foot to foot, shake my hands and hope I won’t have to stand there much longer.
To give you an idea of how intense the cold can be, my son’s left foot ached from the cold and his right foot was fine. He had to run home and change socks because he had somehow stepped in something wet as he was putting on his boots. He was not happy, nor were we because he’s the head dude on this project and we had to stand around until he came back.
We’ve been working on this project seven days a week; I enjoy the work and think I’ve become used to the conditions. However, to say the least, it has certainly changed my daily routine. I spent last summer at Lake Tschida, where I napped every day so I was rested up for the 5 o’clock cocktail hour, and did whatever I wanted to do for five months. Not so much anymore.
Each morning I still make it to Cappuccino on Collins to get my community news briefing, then I head out to the jobsite for the rest of the day. No naps, no cocktail hour, no nonsensical wandering around wondering what to do with my day. Days fly by, I think I’m feeling better, and unlike my previous career it’s kinda nice to be able to see what’s accomplished each day … but boy, that cold stuff still bugs me. Here’s hoping that you able to stay warm in whatever endeavors you take on.