I had a number of welcoming emails find their way into my inbox last week after news of me being named the new editor appeared in last week’s edition. Some came from local politicians. Others came from longtime readers. More than one email included some much-welcomed advice about dealing with the local weather.

As I read through the emails, I couldn’t help but reminisce about the day nearly 20 years ago when I drove into Farmington, Maine to report to my new job as the editor and publisher of a group of newspapers located in the western mountains of the Pine Tree State.

It was the first week of July and the temperature gauge hovered around 70 degrees. By the looks of the locals, it might as well been 105 degrees outside.

Children were playing in the sprinklers. Mothers were patting their brows with cool washcloths. City street workers were hunched over their bright orange IGLOO coolers filling their cone-shaped paper cups in nonstop fashion.

Me? I had the window rolled down and the air conditioner turned off. For all practical purposes, it was a beautiful day.

By the time I reported for work the next day, the temperature had climbed to a balmy 78 degrees and the ladies in my office were lamenting what they referred to as the “heat wave.”

“I can’t even stand to turn on the oven,” said Heidi, our news clerk and part-time copy editor. “It’s just unbearable.”

Having just left Oklahoma where the temperature had already topped the century mark a half-dozen times that summer, I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing.

I went home that night had a good laugh. These people had never seen “hot.”

Situated in the western mountains of Maine, Farmington sits about an hour-and-a-half south of the Canadian border and an hour-and-a-half east of New Hampshire’s famed White Mountains.

Summer temperatures rarely top 80 degrees and a result, most homes don’t even bother with air conditioning.

People start to head to the beach when the Mercury reaches 70 degrees, which doesn’t usually come until sometime in mid-July.

Despite their low tolerance to warm weather, one thing Mainers can handle is snow.

They embrace it. Of course, they don’t have much choice.

During the course of my first winter in Maine, we saw more than 70 inches of snow - more than I had ever seen in my entire life growing up in Oklahoma.

Of course, I nearly froze to death that first winter.

I remember one particular week in January when the temperature never got above zero. It was so cold my face hurt just to walk from the house to the car.

Literally, my face hurt from the cold.

There was snow on the ground at Halloween and it remained on the ground until well after the Easter holiday.

My sons wore winter coats and stocking caps to play spring baseball and they weren’t allowed to come to school unless they had snow pants and snow boots to change into for recess.

And they always went outside for recess.

The first time we saw sparks flying from the highway snow plow, we panicked. Within a few weeks, we would let out a cheer every time one passed us in the opposite lane.

Locals took the blustery weather in stride, but it took us a solid year to get acclimated to the climate and even then, it wasn’t easy.

We should have purchased stock in Freeport, Maine-based L.L. Bean. Between the coats and hats and gloves and boots and earmuffs, we spent a fortune fortifying ourselves for the winter.

Of course, by the time the following spring rolled around, we were wearing short-sleeve shirts when the temperatures reached the freezing mark and our kids went swimming at Old Orchard Beach in June when it was barely 60 degrees outside.

By summer, 70 degrees felt pretty darn good. In fact, it felt too good.

“I can’t even stand to turn on the oven,” my wife said. “It’s just unbearable.”

-o00o-

The same thing happened to us (except in reverse fashion) when we moved from Maine to Iowa.

It was the first week of August and I was so excited about being back amidst the sunshine that I broke out our push lawnmower the first weekend there.

It was 98 degrees outside and it was with great pride that I rolled up my sleeves, tugged the starter rope and made the first pass across the abnormally-large back yard.

Sweat began to pour off my brow. By the second pass, I was having a hard time breathing and by the third trip around the yard, I thought I was going to have a heart attack.

I nonchalantly made my way to the back porch of the house and stumbled inside and collapsed on the carpet - just out of view of my neighbors who had gathered at the fence to watch the idiot from Maine mow his lawn in the middle of the afternoon.

“This is just unbearable,” I muttered to myself.

-o00o-

This week’s roller coaster temperatures have created quite a buzz around our office.

Stories of winter storms past and the re-telling of various adventures in Ohio sleet and ice have been tossed around like well-packed snowballs.

A little research showed that nearby Chardon still holds the record for most snowfall in a single season. The winter of 1959-60 dumped 161.5 inches of snow onto the Geauga County community. Chardon also holds the record for the largest single-storm snowfall, which came over the course of six days back in 1996 when the “Veteran’s Day storm” deposited nearly 70 inches of snow between November 9-14.

Although I’m not sure I’m prepared for a storm like that, I really do enjoy the winter weather. It’s just going to take me some time to remind myself of the same.

Until then, be patient with me. If you see me bundled up on the street muttering something under my breath about the frigid temperatures, pay me no mind. By the time summer rolls around I imagine I’ll be complaining about the heat, which will no doubt be – you guessed it: unbearable.

Gustafson once spent a week in Maui where he experienced what he considers to be “perfect” weather: sunshine, temps in the mid-to-upper 80’s, a daily mid-morning light rain, and a cool ocean breeze. When he’s not dreaming of Kaanapali, you’ll find him behind the editor’s desk at the Chagrin Valley Times, Solon Times, and Geauga Times Courier

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