Saturday, December 17, 2016

So cold that whiskey was sold by the pound ...

I changed out the blog header to a winter theme yesterday evening as freezing rain was falling and shortly after skidding sideways for a distance up Court Avenue, thereby avoiding the rear of the vehicle in front that had braked abruptly. Today's predicted overnight low is minus-11. Brrrr!

That set me to thinking about the "good old days" --- before central heating, when instead of turning a tap or uncapping a bottle of drinking water, our forbears dipped from a bucket filled by pump from a well some distance down the kitchen path and a trip to the outhouse was even longer.

Looking back, I landed in 1875 and found this description of weather conditions during an early week of January that year, written by the ever-inventive Dan Baker and published in his Chariton Leader of Jan. 16.

THE WEATHER --- It makes us shiver to talk about it, but since our last issue it has reminded us forcibly of the Arctic regions. On Friday of last week, one of the worst snow storms that has been seen for years visited us, and the following Saturday was as cold as Norway, the thermometer indicating 25 degrees below zero in this city; since then it has been quite cold, but on Wednesday night and Thursday morning another severe attack alarmed the people, the thermometer indicating about 28 degrees below zero. Norway, Siberia, and Kamschatka would have been considered tropical by most of us.

Icicles hung suspended in the air glittering like burnished silver. The ringing music of the spheres was like unto a brass band; huge icicles hung pendent from travelers' eye-lashes, while a man's voice could be seen but not heard. Cast iron heating stoves froze and bursted on the outside, while red-hot within. Cisterns exploded, blowing themselves inside out, boiling oil thrown in the air came down frozen bullets; ninety-eight percent alcohol could be heard throughout the day blowing up barrels while pure bourbon whiskey and fourth proof brandy were retailed by the pound and carried home in gunny sacks. John! but it was cold.

Stay warm!

The header photograph, used in previous winters, was taken a few years ago about a mile down the Cinder Path. I'll not be walking that far today.

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