Consider this...

By Mike Johnson


Photo: Ross Dunn, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As kids, our aspirations were high. Astronaut. Millionaire. Major League Baseball Player. Still unscarred by experience, anything seemed possible. Our folks must have thought so too because they were always reminding us how easy we had it compared to them.

"When I was your age, I had to walk ten miles to school, through four feet of snow, with nothing but a hot potato in my underpants to keep me warm..."

We've all heard their stories. And I admit it - I've told them to my kids - especially in January - about how tough it was growing up in Minnesota winters.

Born and raised in Florida, my daughters once asked how cold it got in Minnesota while I was reaching into the freezer. "See this box of ice cream?" I said, amazed at the perfection of the timing, "Throw it out in the yard in November and it'll be twice as hard in March. That's Minnesota."

Truth is, sometimes people DO exaggerate the windchill factor of January mornings in the Twin Cities. But only because they have to - even frozen food case thermometers only go to minus 20.

But 53 winters ago, as paperboys for the morning Minneapolis Tribune, best-buddy Dobbs and I stepped into a particularly severe January morning.

WCCO Radio had proclaimed a windchill factor of 80 below zero before we'd left our toasty homes, and our toasty dogs, who were curled up on the toasty floor vents, exposing their even toastier bellys to the petting from our toasty fingers.

Thankfully, our prayers to become dogs that day, remained unanswered.

We walked backwards the entire half mile to the newspaper drop, hiding from the wind, praying we'd finish our routes before the weight of our clothing caused our collapse. Had we been hit by a car -- which was entirely possible because it was 4 a.m., pitch dark and only the middle of the road was plowed -- it would've taken the rescuers 10 minutes and a Jaws of Life to pry us out of all those layers of flannel.

Anyway, on mornings like this, it was pretty certain the paper truck would be late. It was. Evidently, most of the drivers wished they were toasty dogs too.

So Dobbs and I salved our misery by digging a survival tunnel under the snow-laden limbs of the paperstop pine tree, and drifted off to sleep until the squeaky brakes on the Tribune's panel truck jarred us awake.

It was then that our first newspaper career dream was sparked. When that truck's side door slid open, and that wave of heat and steaming coffee and WCCO radio washed over us, we just knew. We were going to become paper truck drivers.

In less than the space of an hour, the Minnesota winter had reduced the grand aspirations of our youth -- becoming astronauts, millionaires or ballplayers -- to pleading for nothing more significant than becoming dogs or truck drivers.

This dangerous temptation to escape from something miserable into something that makes the same misery more tolerable, has buried more aspirations than any January blizzards.

Luckily, most of us eventually realize that the same energy it takes to make our misery tolerable, could be used instead to get us out of those Minnesota winters all together.

And years later, if we found the strength to let go of that toasty misery, we too, might find ourselves in warmer climates, barking to our kids, "When I was your age, I had to walk ten miles to school, through four feet of snow..."


Mike Johnson is an energetic writer & entrepreneur. Learn more about Mike's offerings at