Winter has had a similar effect on Minnesota, I’d claim. It’s an annual refresher course on the value of combining self-reliance and community effort to achieve a shared goal — survival until the spring thaw.
Minnesotans experience winter as both a personal challenge and a mandate for community action. Those who can shovel or plow snow, do — then help neighbors who cannot. Those who can buy extra scarves, socks and mittens, do, for donation to those who cannot and thus may need them all the more.
Folks here take an active interest in government’s role in winter survival, and insist on good results. The quality of snowplowing in St. Paul vs. Minneapolis has been a subject of lively debate and political consternation this month. Complaints that winter-related public services are too skinny are more common than that they are too fat. Critics of government spending seldom fault such things as heating fuel assistance for the poor.
Minnesota’s culture is said to have originated as a hybrid of New England egalitarianism and Scandinavian communitarianism. It’s notable that those are wintry places, too.
LORI STURDEVANT, editorial writer
My father was a Southerner, driven into exile in the frozen north by the great convulsions of war and love.
When America entered World War II, Dad joined the Second Infantry Division at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. But these sons of Dixie were soon shipped north to Wisconsin’s Camp McCoy to prepare for wintry European battlefields.
At a soldiers’ dance in La Crosse, Dad met a young woman from Winona. He would return after the war to marry her.
In December 1944, in frigid Belgium, the Second Division put its winter-combat training to valiant use in the famed Battle of the Bulge.
But my mother, Dad’s Minnesota sweetheart, now 89, has preserved evidence of some lesser-known Greatest Generation heroics, in the earlier Battle of the Upper Midwest — as documented in doggerel by one of Dad’s frostbitten brothers in arms:
“The Second Division must learn to ski,”
That was the War Department’s decree.
So we left sunny Texas, and there was no joy,
“Farewell old Sam Houston, we’re bound for McCoy!”
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