I have a love-hate relationship with cold weather. On one hand, I hate it. On the other hand, I love it, as long as that hand is wearing a glove.
Actually, I don’t mind cold weather as long as I don’t have to be stuck out in it. Unfortunately, I have a history of being stuck out in it.
My earliest memories of being stuck in the discomfort of the elements took place at the bus stop in the late seventies. On cold mornings, while other kids were sporting their Isotoner gloves, my brother and I stood there with tube socks on our hands. If it rained, we kept dry by wearing trash bags. Trendsetters we were not.
Waiting for the bus was the only time I was forced to endure cold weather during my childhood. It wasn’t until I joined the Army that I really learned to detest it.
When I first started basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, the dog days of summer were in full swing, but by the time I finished, it was colder than the proverbial well digger’s behind in Alaska.
One cold night, I was lying in the prone position on the ground while pulling guard duty on the perimeter of our bivouac site. I was extremely miserable, so I eventually closed my eyes trying to escape the misery. Apparently, I dozed off, which is not a good thing to do while pulling guard duty.
Sometime later, I heard heavy footsteps slowly approaching as they cracked their way through the fallen leaves. Once they stopped, I slowly opened my eyes fully expecting to see the spit shined combat boots of my drill sergeant but that was not the case. When I opened my eyes, there was a masked critter no more than 18 inches away staring right back at me. The cold weather didn’t seem to faze the raccoon at all, but the raccoon definitely fazed me. I’m sure I woke up half the camp…
My first day in Germany was one to remember, because it snowed. My buddy from Pittsburgh laughed at me when I told him “I don’t think it’s going to stick.” He laughed because he’d never heard accumulation referred to as “sticking.” Where he was from, it always stuck. Luckily, this Army medic was stationed at a hospital and never went to the field one time.
I wasn’t as fortunate on my next assignment at Ft. Sill where we seemingly spent half the year in the field. Perhaps it wasn’t that much, but it sure seemed that way.
I first went to the field there in February 1996, and between the low temperatures, the rain, and the wind, that was likely the coldest I’d ever been in my life. My feet were like blocks of ice. One of the old-timers introduced me to an old Army trick and told me how to keep my feet warm by wearing panty hose.
I was all about keeping my feet warm, so I had no problem donning the hose. The only problem was that he failed to tell me I was to wear them in conjunction with my regular socks, so there I was running around the woods in combat boots and panty hose. Not only were my feet colder, but they also had blisters and I had a run in my hose. That was not one of the highlights of my military career.
Shaving on cold mornings was pure torture. Oftentimes, I’d skip the shaving cream and water altogether and simply dry shave. Sometimes, it would become a bloody mess, but at least I didn’t have cold water running down my chest.
It even got cold in Iraq. Although it can reach 130 degrees in the summer, it can be extremely cold there in the winter. In fact, it snowed during each of my first two deployments, but I only experienced misery on the first one.
Riding in a Humvee in the freezing rain and snow with no windows is enough to make anyone hate cold weather.
The good thing is that I know how blessed I am. While it’s a bit wet and chilly out this morning, I’m writing this article from the comfort and warmth of my home.
For most of us, whether it’s enduring the elements, a losing football season, or things that really matter, misery is only temporary. Life can be difficult for many this time of year, so even if you have to throw some tube socks on your hands, hang in there and hold your head high. It will get better.