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January's annual punishment

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It was 7:30 a.m. on Friday, January 21, 2011, and it was not a promising day. The night before it had been 46 degrees below in International Falls -- a record for the date even in that ice box, 40 degrees below zero in nearby Park Rapids, and at 7:30 it was 22 below where I stood -- in my driveway. I was there to shovel off the overnight snow. There was a vicious raw wind howling from the north and the wind chill was near 60 below. My face was painful to the point of tears and I was angry about the new snow.

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"It's not supposed to snow when it's this cold," I said to myself out loud.

"Who said so?" growled a deep voice, like the voice of a wounded timber wolf.

I whirled around to see who was there. I saw nothing but a swirl of icy flakes that cut like slivers from a razorblade. Spooky. "Who's there?" I asked timidly. I felt stupid out there on the driveway talking to myself.

"It's me, January -- who'd you expect, the 4th of July?"

"I was hoping. Why do you keep hanging around anyway, isn't it about time for you to be moving along?"

"Not yet Trembles, I've had a wonderful time since New Year's Day and nobody has interviewed me yet. You're a writer aren't you?"

"That's a matter of opinion, but I do have a writing assignment for the week and it doesn't look like I'm going to get to interview Sarah Palin, so let's go inside where it's warm and I'll give you the interview you want."

January's reply sounded like a growl of a bear just awaked from a hibernation nap by a poke with a sharp stick. "You weather whiner. I don't go indoors except to blow through keyholes, leaky doors, drafty windows and through frozen pipes. I just love to freeze pipes."

I looked around and didn't see Sarah Palin so we stayed outside. I started: "Well January, you sure were tough this year. How do you rate your performance so far?"

"I've had the best time in years. I have power other months can only dream about. I'm rotten and I love it. I love to see little tongues frozen to car doors -- while the cars are roaring down frozen streets. I love to see scruffy beards frozen steel hard, then broken off. I'm thrilled by teary eyes that freeze so hard they can't blink."

"You seem to be confusing nastiness with power."

"You think I have no power? I paralyzed Boston and New York City a few weeks ago and I'll give them more before the month is over. New York Mayor Bloomberg got into serious trouble for not getting the streets cleaned soon enough. I've shown more power than Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and A-Rod combined. I can close down Washington D.C. and the federal government too -- I've done it before -- but I think I'll wait until 2012 -- it's more fun in an election year."

"Is that how you get your kicks?"

"You bet your fuzzy earmuffs Tenderfoot. I'm in the same league as pit bulls, hyenas and Osama bin Laden, but without their warmth. Winter is war and I'm the field commander. When I finish a siege, car batteries are split down the middle, jumper cables are giving transfusions, cars are piled in the ditch, trucks are upside down, snowplows are buried, highways are closed, schools are closed, and church services are called off. Even BINGO games are cancelled."

My mittens were over my ears and I was stomping my feet, but they were beginning to clank like anvils. I had absorbed about as much of January's chill and bragging as I could handle so I decided to bring the interview to the last inning.

"You may be cruel, but your time is just about over and we are looking forward to warmer days ahead. So long tough guy."

"Don't smirk Snot Nose. My last day will be my most brutal and I'll be followed by my kid brother, February, and he can be even more beastly than me for a few days. So you haven't seen the last of us Winter boys."

"I haven't even had a good look at you. All I've seen is ice and snow swirling in the air and blasting me in the face. I can't focus on you."

"That's what I look like, Sunny. That's who I am and don't forget it because I'll be back. And don't worry your fuzzy brain about global warming because it will never happen while I'm around. Now you can just scoot inside and warm your frosty tootsies."

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