Winter by Mark Berrier

I grew up in Murphysboro IL, down in the tip of Illinois, in hillbilly country. My first job was carrying papers for the Southern Illinoisan, a newspaper that was the only real paper in Southern Illinois. I remember the misery of carrying papers in winter, often in snow so deep that I had to drag my feet through it. I wore gloves and heavy winter clothing, but my face seemed to freeze. And on windy days, the wind-whipped snow would hit my face like grains of sand in a wind tunnel. It was awful!

Later, to my extreme sadness, my family moved 300 miles farther north from there to Ottawa, one of the most beautiful towns in Illinois, but only so in summer. Two rivers, the Illinois and the Fox, met in that town. They were beautiful in summer, with a high cliff on the south side of the Illinois River and downtown on the north side. But the winter was deep and miserable. But in winter, the tops of the rivers would freeze solid. I remember walking across the Fox one day when the temperature was -27 degrees. When it gets that cold, you can spit, and the spit would crack to pieces when it hit, frozen solid. People living in the south don’t believe it gets that cold. On a still day, you could hear the tinkling of your own breath! One day during such cold, I parked my parents’ car a block away and walked with the wind to the bank to cash a check. When I came out and faced into the wind, I could not stand it! I had to keep my eyes shut tight against the wind, and my lashes would freeze together. I went into every single store between the bank and the car to thaw out. That is serious cold! People in Ottawa said that the only thing to block the wind between there and the North Pole was a barbwire fence. Every winter we could see the aurora borealis on clear nights. We often had to tunnel into or out of our house due to drifting snow.  

Ottawa Township High School was right east of downtown on the north side of the river. I ran cross country, so I would often run the two and a half miles to school in the mornings. One windless morning I was running to school, wearing a couple of sweatshirts and a stocking cap. When I got almost to the bridge on the south side, a brand new 1959 Buick stopped and the driver shouted, “Get in!” I was pretty cold, so I got in. On the way to the school, he said, “Are you nuts!? It’s 26 below out there.” I had no idea it was so cold. When I got to school, my right ear began to tingle. I felt of it, and it was as cold as ice. Apparently, it had frozen. It still tingled after that for years in cold weather. I guess I should have pulled that stocking cap over my ears.

God asked Job, “Do you know the treasuries of the snow?” It was one of eighty-eight questions God asked Job, to show Job his extreme ignorance of the creation. It is God who controls the snow, ice and cold. We don’t control it yet. Maybe one day we will. But as it is now, we are able to survive the extremes of earth’s temperatures because of the limits God has placed on the heat and cold.

Genesis 9 has this promise from God; he says, “As long as the earth remains, day and night, springtime and harvest, summer and winter, cold and heat, will not cease.”