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Thu., Dec. 20, 2012, 8:15 a.m.

Frozen in memory

My friend Ken Stout recalled a couple of childhood winters spent in Lewistown, Mont.

The snow and cold made a definite impression on him.

I shared his memories with my colleague, Rich Landers, who grew up in Lewistown. That prompted Rich to remember a day in his childhood when it was a surreal 50 degrees below zero.

That reminded me of a story of my own, one which my late father enjoyed retelling.

The coldest place my family lived when I was a kid was the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. During our two years there, I rode a bus to school. The direct route to my bus stop took me through a pair of unfenced backyards a short walk from our home.

But there was a problem. In each yard, there was a chained dog. To me, these two canines looked and sounded like killers. And it was on my first initially carefree stroll through these adjacent yards that I discovered the chains attached to the two dogs were long enough to let them move around but not quite reach each other.

Still, when both of those snarling beasts strained to meet at the invisible dividing line between the yards, it did not leave much room for a young scholar to trudge through toward the bus stop.

Naturally, after my first experience with being lunged at from east and west, I subsequently chose a longer but far safer route.

But one winter day, it was so frickin' cold and ice-pick windy that I thought, "Aw, the hell with it."

I wanted to get to the protection of the little hut at the bus stop. And I wanted to get there fast.

So I opted for the route that took me between the fangs-baring dogs. I might have reasoned that if they got me at least I wouldn't feel my freezing face anymore.

The fact that you are reading this tells you I survived. But I would hasten to add that it was touch and go. If I had managed to breathe during this trial by Cujos, I would have inhaled frozen barking vapor.

I don't think the dogs appreciated being left out in 30-below by their owners. And I didn't blame them. Taking their hostility out on a bundled-up kid free to move about as he pleased actually made sense in a way.

Asked about my day at dinner that evening, I said, yes, I did have a report.

I just wish it had occurred to me to first get up from the table and plop the "Peter and the Wolf" theme onto the stereo turntable.

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The online home for Paul Turner's musings and interactions with disciples of The Slice.