On Jan. 1, 1969, I was sitting on my couch in Fargo, N.D., buried under a blanket and watching the Rose Bowl Parade.
At one point, a broadcaster told what a beautiful day it was in Pasadena, Calif., with temperatures in the mid-70s. By contrast, she said, the coldest spot in the nation at that moment was Fargo, at 25 degrees below zero.
A little math told me it was 100 degrees warmer in Pasadena than Fargo; heck, my freezer was 50 degrees warmer than outside.
It also told me it was time to send The Charlotte Observer, which had contacted me earlier, some of my Fargo Forum clippings and apply for a reporting job.
I liked a lot about Fargo, but Charlotte, which I had to locate on a map, was about a thousand miles closer to the equator. My kind of place.
I arrived in September, and in April when, I like to tell people, I got my car started, the family and I headed south to North Carolina.
This past Tuesday, in the midst of a devastating polar vortex, it got even worse in frigid Fargo, a minus 33 degrees, with a wind chill around minus 44. A Fargo Forum story pointed out that it was colder that day than in the South Pole, the North Pole, Antarctica and Siberia. That’s cold, bro.
I grew up, of course, in southern Minnesota, where it was plenty cold but never, ever Fargo cold. Summer and winter for about five years I delivered the local newspaper, more than 100 papers every morning except Monday, and don’t recall being bothered by the cold. I was young and dumb. And if it got below zero, my mother would drive me around, giving me a bit of warmth as I darted in and out of the car.
Fargo was different. I tried to tell my fellow Fargoans (I’d say Fargoites, but that sounds cold) that their city was always about 20 degrees colder than Minneapolis. They didn’t believe me. Anyway, they said, Fargo’s was a dry cold. Does that mean, I asked, you don’t feel it when your ears fall off? They never laughed.
After I got to Charlotte, I wrote a little article about Fargo on Charlotte’s first cold day of winter. I confess I was kind of a jerk about it.
I mentioned that North Dakota was shaped like an ice cube for a reason. I whined about trudging through knee-deep snow to get to the mayor’s snow emergency declaration. I mentioned the trials and tribulations of getting my little car, a Chevy Corvair, to start in sub-zero temperatures.
Someone sent my scribblings to a friend in Fargo and a few days later the newspaper’s columnist — a defender of Fargo and rightly so — wrote a response.
I don’t remember much of it, except for this line: “As I recall, Bestler’s car wouldn’t start in Miami Beach.” I loved it.
Still, my favorite quote about cold weather, not in Fargo, but in Milwauklee, Wis., where I also worked, came from Milwaukee Journal columnist Jacquelyn Mitchard. Mitchard would go on to write “The Deep End of the Ocean,” the first book chosen for Oprah Winfrey’s book club.
After blasting Milwaukee’s cold weather, she received a request from the local Chamber of Commerce to say something positive about Milwaukee weather. She finally came up with something:
“Every year, for a little while, all the bugs die.”
I hope that also applies to mosquitoes.
Contact Bob Bestler at bestler6@com.