When a carpet of snow covered the backyard and a century-old low temperature record shattered like a falling icicle recently, it occurred to me just how easily we box ourselves into corners of our own making with our words.
It’s one thing to reach for a laudable, if not entirely appropriate, goal by tugging truth a little at the edges but entirely another to stretch the fabric so taut you can see through it.
These little pufferies, half-truths, not-entirely-accurate descriptions and other self-serving rationalizations come in a variety of forms but have at their cores unwarranted, unsupportable deceptions that once exposed, leave the windbag who uttered them struggling like a Boxer to exit a Beagle-sized dog house.
And you’d think we’d know better.
Sometimes, the small words bite the hardest.
Take the adverbial “that;” as in, “well, it doesn’t get that cold there,” a statement I flippantly made in the spring of 2012 that put the big dog in the small house.
You see, my wife is from Florida.
But not just from Florida; she’s a native. But not just your garden variety born there, been there, done that sort of native.
Her family goes back so far near the Big Water of Okeechobee that her cattle-ranching ancestors were on speaking terms with Seminole Indian Chieftain Billy Bowlegs.
Though there’s no record of what Bowlegs and the Journigans talked about; conversations probably ranged from favorite Seminole pumpkin frybread recipes to how the government should just mind its own business and accept the fact that no matter what kind of whoopin’ the Feds put on the tribe, it would still own the Hard Rock Café sooner or later.
These people lived well south of The South, and the Confederacy was where they vacationed, when they wanted to cool off and get away from the mosquitoes.
“Whatever you do, doll,” my wife’s grandmother admonished in the gravest tone possible, “don’t marry a Yankee or a game warden.”
What fool could possibly think a good idea was relocating someone whose blood is so thin it evaporates to the Midwest?
Especially a fool born north of the Mason-Dixon Line whose urging flies in bald defiance of his wife’s revered grandmother, a gator-thumping, prayer-warrioring, Flat Lander who thought Robert E. Lee was a quitter.
God rest her soul.
Who would think of such a thing? More on that later.
The claim that it doesn’t really get that cold in the Midwest flew fairly below the radar during the winter of 2012-13.
The adventure was still fresh, and Old Man Winter didn’t bite that hard.
That all changed the following year with record snowfalls and a morning weather telecast that brought my wife to the living room staring at the weatherman’s wind-chill pronouncement as if he was speaking Chechen.
“What did he say?” she asked, her voice kicking into that upper register women use to indicate they know exactly what he said.
The whole minus thing in the temperature forecast threw her, and I knew there was no running from this one.
Then we got the winter of 2015 when, oh, by the way, it hadn’t been that cold here since 1899, which I suppose means it actually does get that cold here.
So, regardless of how much snow falls, regardless how far the mercury plummets, no matter I’m so cold my knees clatter like castanets, I’m forever stuck like a tongue on a frozen flag pole to the mantra: It’s really not that cold.
You’d think we’d learn.
Jim Mayfield is a former staff writer for the Daily Reporter. He lives in Irvington.