They call them “French Toast Runs.”
The weather report predicts snow, high winds, and freezing rain the next day, and nervous folks head to the grocery store to stock up on eggs, bread and milk – the stuff you need for French toast. Not that they will make French toast, mind you. No, we’re talking survival, and you need eggs, bread and milk to fend off starvation, so you don’t have to eat the family dog if things get really bad.
Out here in the Big Empty, where winter arrives early and stays long, you notice that it’s tough finding a close-in parking spot at Walmart the day before a storm. Same with the liquor stores, as “be prepared” folks batten down the hatches. They need their French toast supplies, and a box of cheap wine, commonly known as “cardbordeaux.”
I have Facebook friends who express horror when I post photos of bad weather. “Oh NO!” they reply when I show snow blasting past my back door, horizontally, in a 50-mile-per-hour wind. (Hey, look on the bright side. If the snow doesn’t land, I don’t have to shovel it. It’s Nebraska’s problem.)
“I could never live out there!” they say. (They use a lot of exclamation marks.) These are people who live in areas that see a lot of tornadoes, or hurricanes, or flooding, but they could never live here, where we get a snow day every now and then. Where the worst that can happen is the satellite TV gets interrupted for a while. And the unprepared might run low on eggs, bread and milk.
Our distant friends are nice, sympathetic folks, but I can’t help but think of them as weather wimps. Many of them beat a path to southern states in September, and you don’t see them again until the Fourth of July, or later if the mosquitoes are bad.
Sounds boring to me. How much golf can you play? But they’re feisty, sending pictures of leisurely dinners out on the patio in mid January, surrounded by plants, rubbing it in as the storms rage outside my window.
“How’s the weather up there?” they ask. And while they don’t say it, you know they’re thinking, “you sap.” They call themselves “snow birds,” but I think of them as “sunshine soldiers,” absent without leave from the seasons.
I come from hardy stock, sturdy Corn Belt people who lived and worked in Chicago, then headed NORTH when they retired, to Wisconsin. And where they hunkered down, between the lakes, when Gordon Lightfoot’s “gales of November” howled outside. It was good for them – my mother lived to be just five months short of 100.
“I’m not going to work tomorrow,” I said to my charming wife, The Wife, last Sunday, as bad weather was predicted for Monday. “And I don’t care what my boss thinks.” We both got a laugh out of that, because neither of us have had a job to go to, or a boss (other than each other) for going on five years now. We’re retired, so every day is Saturday, or a snow day. And since we followed that advice you hear on the radio to “save money now, so you’ll have money later,” having enough French toast ingredients is not a problem. We’re good Boy Scouts.
Some years back, when I was still working in Central Illinois, a huge snowstorm hit over a weekend. The mayor asked everyone to stay inside so heavy equipment could clear the streets.
I was prepared. I had a good book from the library, and a comfortable easy chair next to an upstairs window. I spent a perfect day doing my civic duty, warm and cozy, as the storm raged outside. We made a pot of ham and bean soup, and had it with grilled cheese sandwiches for supper.
It was one of the most perfect days of my life.
An old friend recently moved from Illinois to Florida. The other day, I asked him if he had fired up his snow blower in preparation for winter.
“I’ll do it right after margaritas on the beach,” he replied.
Dave Simpson has been a newsman for four decades, working as a reporter, editor, publisher and columnist. He lives in Cheyenne. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.