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When I wasn't watchin', winter takes the first shot

OK then, winter, just remember, you started it. I wasn't lookin' for any kind of a fight, at least not until the holidays with a close family member, but you just had to provoke me. All right. Game on. As some tough-guy movie star said in one of those blow-everything-up flicks, 'I didn't start this, but I'm gonna end it.'

I dunno. Liam Neeson maybe. Samuel L. Jackson? Sounds like sumthin' he'd say.

So anyway, last week on Tuesday I was minding my own business, at my desk, tending to newspaper tasks. Yeah, it was snowing outside, abnormally early, to say the least, but I ignored it. Like I said, I wasn't hankering for any kind of a fracas, so I chose not to look out the window to see the white stuff piling up like dirty socks on my bedroom floor.

Yeah, no, laundry ain't my favorite thing to do.

I did check in on the local television news channel website to watch the snowstorm's movement on radar. It was a typical wintertime pattern, a cold blast of air from Manitoba meeting a warm push from the gulf, with the overriding lift creating a several-inch fall of heavy, moist flakes. On Oct. 20, well, that's just too early, I thought, but once again, I kept my opinion to myself and just kept at it.

It should have just left it at that.

But it didn't, no, see, winter is the a-----e of seasons, really, and sometimes it just ain't enough that you're miserable in the cold with frozen fingertips and crisp ears and a thick glop of snot running through your mustache. No, just when you think you've had enough and are ready to check prices on Florida condominiums, winter will do something nasty like freeze up your water lines or choke out your car battery or drop a blizzard on you the very day you were supposed to leave to visit your grandparents for Christmas in northern Minnesota. Happened to me when I was 11. Still ain't let that one go.

But I've mellowed through the years, and learned to choose my battles. Me and winter go back a long way, we do -- don't think I've forgotten having my tongue frozen to the garbage barrel -- but I just try to remain calm now and allow the cold season to have its space. If it wants to send in wind chills at 30-below, I find another blanket. Two feet of snow? I call someone to plow my driveway.

I tried not to look at last week's early snowfall as a personal provocation. I gave winter the benefit of the doubt, thinking, oh, it's just a weather anomaly, it won't last, yada, yada, yada. I was blissful in my naivete, with no inkling that this was a set-up, a ruse, a let's-let-the-doofusthink- this-is-all-innocent situation.

Well, I bit.

After finishing work on last week's issue, I figured I'd best dig out the office snow shovel and clear the front walk of the few inches of fallen fluff. Simple chore, done it a few hundred times, just remember to lift with the legs and not the back. Two minutes, tops. Then I could go home for supper. Daddy likes his re-heated mac & cheese, don't ya know.

So, the shovel located, my leather jacket ( The Territory Ahead brand, made in China, nothing swanky) donned but not zipped, I stepped outside into the bracing evening chill. I swung the front door shut behind me and took a half-step forward -- almost as onto a pre-determined target-- just as the thump of the door shook loose the pile perched on the slight overhang above.

Bulls-eye. Top of my head, down the back of my neck, around front to my face, the pitch was perfect. Not two seconds yet into my first foray into the frozen fray, and there I am, glasses knocked askew, icewater trickling down my back. 'Really?' I said as I glanced up to the empty patch on the overhang, the only spot cleared the one directly over the sidewalk. 'Did you really have to do that?'

Winter chuckled, I'd imagine, maybe even all-out full belly-laughed, and I guess I would too if I'd scored the first points of the game. It was a good one, I suppose, not only making me find the shovel before Halloween, but then dunkin' my head before I'd even thought about digging out a stocking cap. The only thing better might have been had I fallen on the walk and shattered an elbow or a hip, but, well, that would just be greedy. Winter's not like that; it just heaps it on in small amounts until, along about February, you're so ornery your cat wouldn't even come near you if you were covered in tuna juice.

Alas, this year, the battle shall be a long one. It would normally be months before I'd expect winter's first shot, maybe something like a boot full of frigid water when I'd step on what looked to be solid ground but would turn out to be a buried puddle. It's usually January before I forget my gloves and have to scrape a quarter-inch of ice off my windshield with a fingernail clipper (year, forgot the scraper, too), and last year I think I made it until almost March before my front door blew open on a windy day and the temperature in my living room was the same as in my freezer (no, no, the cat was not pleased with me when I got home that day.) I shudder to think now that I have a full five months of such tricks to endure, when all I'd wanted was a calm, peaceful hibernation. Willing I was to watch the winter gently pass from my favorite chair, to call a truce with the Ol' Man for the year. Silly me.

I can't strike back all at once, but I'll take my shots when I can. I might just crank the heat way up some dark December day, and sit around in my skivvies while winter whips away at my windows. That'll show him. After the New Year, when he pushes down a polar vortex, I'll tune in my TV to the travel channel and pretend I'm on a beach in the Bahamas with a cool Corona in hand. That one always gets his goat.

And, well, of course, I'll have to be more observant now. I let down my guard last week and got a snootful of snow to show for it, so enough of that already. Until next April, it's shoes with extra grip so I don't wipe out, a hanky in my pocket at all times for snotsickle control, and always an eye open for that latent load from above.