When cold weather hangs around like an urchin's runny nose, you can do one of two things: Wear warm clothes.
What amazes me is how many people in parkas are complaining about the cold spell we've been having.
We're all spoiled, rotten to the core. We've had some mild winters in recent years. And this year we didn't have winter at all until January was almost half over.
Then we were socked.
When I heard the TV weatherman say our temperatures in the Midwest were lower than in Antarctica, I knew something was wrong.
Global warming, the experts say, doesn't mean the temperatures will simply keep getting hotter and hotter until we all fry. What it means, the scientists say, is that temperature extremes will intensify. Which means it will be hotter in the summer and colder in the winter. And that means more violent storms, since winds are caused by temperature fluctuations and the collision of hot and cold air masses.
Not a pretty picture, is it?
I'm not a scientist, and Lord knows I'm no expert, but I do have my own theories about global warming.
For example, it seems perfectly logical to me that the planet's warming trend will melt the polar icecaps. And where will all that frigid water go? My guess is Florida and southern California. Which means cold ocean streams will cool down the air, which means subfreezing winters right here in River City.
In the summer, my theory goes, the cold water from the poles won't be quite so cold, which means the ocean currents will have less cooling effect on the air, which means your air conditioner is due to go on the fritz about the middle of June.
But wait. We didn't always have central heat and air conditioning.
Many of us remember when the only heat in the winter came from a wood-burning stove in a drafty house. And air conditioning? That's what double-sash windows were for. Nowadays new windows come with a no-screen option. Who's going to open them?
I am not the only one who remembers sleeping in a bedroom so far removed from the wood stove in the living room that frost built up on the bedroom walls. I am not making this up.
Or waking up on a wintry morning to find a layer of snow has sifted in under the bedroom window.
Or going to the kitchen on cold mornings and having to break the ice in the water bucket before you could wash up or make coffee.
Or milking the cow on frigid mornings and running from the barn to the house with a sloshing bucket and by the time you got to the kitchen you had ice cream.
OK. That last bit is a stretch. It was more like a slushee.
One way to keep warm during cold weather like we're having is to think warm thoughts.
Like hay-baling day when you feel like you're going to drown in the humidity and your shirt is soaked with sweat just riding on the wagon out to the field. And when you take the hay to the barn, it has to be stacked in a dark, airless loft, and a fine shower of dried alfalfa and pollen covers you, invading your eyes and your nose and your mouth and your ears. Relief comes at dinnertime when you relax in the bluegrass under an elm tree munching on the ice from your sugar-sweetened tea.
Like those afternoons you spent at the swimming hole, including the summer you learned to put your head underwater and your mother swears the soles of your feet got sunburned.
Like the time the woods behind the barn caught fire and you soaked a burlap sack in the pond and beat the snaking line of embers that were creeping toward that summer's hay harvest while the sun beat through the denuded oak and hickory trees and scorched your scalp because you ran out of the house without your cap.
I'm warm now.
Pretty soon Southeast Missouri's dynamic duo, heat and humidity, will be upon us. We'll have to think of cool thoughts. Like the subfreezing February when the wind took our breath away ... .
R. Joe Sullivan is the editor of the Southeast Missourian.