Seventeen years ago at Easter time we drove down to Arkansas where our daughter was teaching. Deborah, a friend of our daughter, travelled with us. There in the deep south we saw mounds of dirt here and there in the fields. We asked one of the local ladies what they were and she told us they were either crawdads or fire ants. Deborah turned to us and quietly said, “You couldn’t pay me enough to live in this country.” No doubt folks from the south would feel the same about our winters.
Because of our cooler climate we do not have many of the insect pests that thrive in the warmer clime south of us. Nor do we have alligators or Burmese pythons. We do not get nearly as many severe storms or floods either.
Last year at this time Christian Public Service of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite had five rebuilding units operating in the USA, usually with six young brethren at a time and a couple as houseparents, volunteering their time to rebuild homes damaged or destroyed by storms and floods. In addition, hundreds of brethren give time every year for short term Christian Disaster Relief work in emergency cleanup work after storms, fires tornadoes and floods.
Some of that happens in Canada, too, just not nearly as often. On June 30, 1912 a tornado hit Regina, Saskatchewan. There were 28 lives lost, 2,500 left temporarily homeless and a large part of the downtown severely damaged. There have been many tornadoes in the one hundred years since then, but that is still the worst in Canadian history. Storms like that, and much worse, are annual occurrences in many parts of the USA.
But winter comes to us every year, bringing little personal emergencies with it. Let me tell you about our day yesterday. Friday and Saturday were mild, with temperatures above freezing. A strong north wind came up in the night, the temperature began to drop rapidly, and when we returned home after morning church no water would come from the taps in the bathroom on the north side of the house. We have had problems with some sort of creature digging on the north side to find a warm spot under the house. We have closed the hole many times with rocks and gravel. I knew that there had been some activity there again, but it had been covered by snow until the recent warm spell. Now a large hole was exposed and the north wind was whistling in. I filled the hole again and heaped more gravel on top. Then I set an electric heater to blow hot air in from the access opening to the plumbing. Within an hour the water was running again.
In the evening, after church and a visit to our children, I could not unlock the back door when we came home. The key would not go all the way in; apparently some moisture had gotten in and frozen. I went to the garage and got a rubber mallet (“When in doubt, use a bigger hammer”), gave a couple of taps, not too gently, on the handle, and then the key went in easily.
The repeated thaws and freezes this month have turned our yards into seas of ice. One elderly gentleman slipped on the ice and broke his hip. This is winter in Saskatchewan. Every year is a little different than the previous years, testing our homes, vehicles and bodies in new ways. We always find a way to “muddle through.”
The days are getting longer now, the time between sunrise and sunset is increasing by more than three minutes per day. Those who live where there are no winters do not know the drama and excitement of a prairie spring. Nor the glories of a summer with sixteen hours from sunrise to sunset.