Jensen Afield

A photo of a car in the author’s driveway. The long, cold, snowy winter months take their toll on Vermonters, particularly older Vermonters.

White. Cold. Winter.

Let’s get this out of the way, OK? I don’t think I can take another Vermont winter. First we fire up the snowblower. Then we steer the pickup truck over to the town dump for a load or two of sand, then spend a good deal of time spreading that sand. More snow, then ice on the driveway, then sand. Then, five days later, the same sad song: snow, ice, sand.

I know a good number of people — I believe that I once described them as “winter wimps” — who escape every November or December to Florida or some other place where they didn’t wake up at 10 below this morning.

That’s what the temperature read outside my kitchen window and, as I made the morning coffee and cursed the four inches of snow that fell overnight, I then considered the prospect of taking a nasty fall while sliding down the sloping driveway for the morning paper. I know something about falling, and I’m not talking about the angels in our midst.

Anyway, here’s an interesting thought, a positive view, on the cold and, especially, the snow. When November comes around, some 65,000 Vermonters will turn in one night, or for perhaps 16 nights, with dreams of a fresh snow. That means tracks in snow; that means deer on the move and the hopes of perhaps following a buck track to the point where you catch up to the critter and then, for the bulk of us, see a big, white tail waving bye-bye as you realize how foolish you were to think you could stalk and kill a smart, mountain buck.

Cold temperatures, we know, can put deer on the move because, just like us, they burn calories and need to restore energy with food. That means movement, a particularly important aspect of deer hunting for those of us who sit and wait for a buck to pass by. So, we know that snow and cold can be a godsend to the deer hunter.

And ice? What would ice fishermen do without the frozen waters? The tasty yellow perch we love to filet and fry and last weekend’s Lake Bomoseen Ice Fishing Derby, where a record 591 tickets were sold, are what ice fishing is all about. And without that Vermont cold, we wouldn’t have those ice fishing derbies or perch from a cast-iron skillet.

But Vermont can’t just give us sufficient snow for deer hunters and decent ice for fishermen. No, she has to shove our faces in it, to the point where neighbors and friends, bumping into each other after months, don’t ask how the family is, they instead come out with the likes of “Cold enough for you?” and other nonsense like, “Did you hear? Another big storm coming in on Thursday.”

Hey, I didn’t realize how cold it was last night until I took my boots off and gazed down at blue toes. Now I can, thank you.

Yes, I know. It sounds like I’m bitter. I am. Read on.

So, I have to run over to my son’s place about five weeks ago to pick up the snow boots for my sweet, forgetful granddaughter. I step out of the truck, cannot see the half-inch-thick coating of ice, covered by an inch of new snow in the driveway and then, I am down, as if I were hit by the thundering right hand of George Foreman. I would get up, right away, but I tore a rotator cuff about a dozen years ago, got it back to about 80 percent through time and exercise, and wouldn’t you just know it? I came down and the first part of my body to hit the ice was that shoulder. I know how to spell pain.

So now I’m practically worthless, in terms of doing any real physical activity and, as blame surely must be passed as salt at the dinner table, I blame Vermont. There is wood to cut, wood to split and wood to stack, and that ain’t getting done lately.

It means physical therapy at home and with a talented physical therapist in town, long trips to the Veteran’s Administration in White River Junction, and going about virtually without the use of my left arm. I blame Vermont or, more to the point, a Vermont winter that is about as mean as the Clown King of the White House.

But wait. The spring turkey season is only like 10 weeks away. I’ll hunt with one arm if that is how it must be. Then fishing comes along, on the White River for smallmouth bass and the warm summer nights angling for stripers off the coast of Maine. And there are the mountain bike mornings and slipping the kayak into a small Vermont lake on a muggy evening.

Yeah, there will be just enough good stuff to lull me back to really loving it here, and foolishly believe that, hey, come next winter, things might be different.

They will not. And I will almost certainly be here, once again, enduring all that Vermont can throw at me and, yes, complaining about it.

Contact Dennis Jensen at

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