Alan “Lindy” Linda

Freelance Writer

A long time ago, one of our neighborhood friends out here in farming country invited me over to her place for a bonfire. “We always have one,” she said. It was February, I said. “It’s my birthday,” she said. It’s 12 below zero, I said.

But, heck, I’d never been to a bonfire when it was that cold. It’d be a new experience.  And what better way to separate your true friends from the tepid unfaithful than to invite them to a bonfire outside at 12 below.

One way to separate your friends out, a deal like that. Stand around a fire when it’s that cold. “Come on over,” said she. “We’ll celebrate.”

Celebrate what? Frostbite suffering first hand? I thought at first she was joking. “We’ll have hot apple cider, and a big fire.” Oh. Not joking. She was serious.

Come the night of the bonfire, without a doubt, friends were there. Put another way, everyone there was a friend. Still, she had weeded some of them out because there seemed to be a lot of room around the fire. Snow was piled six feet high around to make a small circle for the fire. I moved as gracefully toward the fire as one can while wearing every article of clothing one owns. We all laughed balloons of frosty breath in front of ourselves. Could barely see one another.

I moved closer yet to the fire. Close enough for my front to begin smoking, even though my butt was freezing. I turned. The reverse occurred, except I couldn’t see the smoke from back there. Someone told me about it. They said: “Hey, your ass is on fire.” Parts of my anatomy that had never been this cold began spasming, the first sign of hyperthermia.

“Here,” someone cheerfully said, “have some cider.” The cup handed to me was steaming. Good. I needed warmth. I drank some. It was cool. But it was steaming. Not so good. Freezing cold bonfire revelation number one: Stuff that steams at a minus 12 degrees doesn’t mean it’s hot. Or even warm. Steamy stuff only has to be above freezing. I drank it. My refrigerator kept stuff warmer than this. But yum. It was rum with a bit of apple cider.

The hot dogs were lying on the snow. I reached for one. The whole pack was frozen together. I beat one loose with a stick of firewood. My glove flew into the fire. As I fished for it with a tree limb, my long coat caught fire in three different places. Ah, but I was warm.

I tried to put the hot dog on a stick with one hand. Couldn’t. I had some more rum with apple cider. I felt warmer. Drank all of it. Held out my cup with the hand that had the mitten. Someone filled it up. My hot dog fell into the fire, and since my mitten was froze to it, it went in too.

Two cans of beer three feet from the fire exploded from the heat. I used what was left of one to extinguish my coat, and drank part of the other one. I peered through the smokey fire and saw the birthday girl taking the longest drink out of a can of beer I’d ever seen. Wondered why she was twisting and gyrating so.

Her lips were frozen to the can. I listened while various drunken solutions were suggested to the age-old problem of having parts of your face froze-stuck to something cold. Suggestions were numerous. I voted against holding her head to the fire. Finally, we slopped some of the last rum and apple cider all over her. She fell over. But the can came loose.

I’ll bet even eskimos know better than drinking out of a below-zero metal can.

I had some more rum and cider, noticed without really caring that my feet were warm and my boots were on fire. No problem. I jumped feet first into a snow bank. Went in clear up to my belt. Several parts of me sizzled. From the snowbank, I leaned out toward the fire, held out my cup. Someone filled it.

I wasn’t cold anymore.

(Lindy’s book: The Prairie Spy–Who shot the dryer–is on Amazon, where it’s warm.)