So what's wrong with gray?
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Bill Barth
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        As my stiff and shivering fingers stumble along the keyboard, it is 42 degrees outside here in beautiful southern Wisconsin. The skies are a swirl of battleship gray. A cold rain is falling. A howling wind blows it sideways.
        And this is as far south as you can get in Wisconsin. Really, it’s much worse “up north,” as we say around here. It’s snowing, up north.
        Here, “balmy” Illinois is barely a skip and a hop away. Not that northern Illinois is any picnic.
        Meanwhile, I am the recipient of news from my daughter, who had the good sense a few years ago to move to Orlando, Florida. Traci reports it has been so hot in Florida that the Sunshine State is setting heat records. She and her husband Jeff and their little girl Cate are simmering in the tropical stew. Well, ain’t that just a whoop-de-doo!
        Adding to my misery is a smart-alecky email from my pal Ron, who runs this Web site from his home in sunny southern California.
        “Weather here got frigid,” Ron writes. “It was 72 degrees! Howz a guy to live in this weather.”
        Then Ron adds, “I remember those wonderful summers in Beloit. Best summers I've ever spent.”
        Is that supposed to make me feel better?
        I remember summer, too. It was from August 12 to August 26, as I recall.
        Actually, this has been something of a weird year even for fickle Wisconsin, where the weather yo-yos more than Rush Limbaugh’s weight.
        Winter was long, snowy and bone-chillingly frigid.
Spring was cold and wet. (Usually, you see, it’s just cold.)
        Summer … well, see reference above.
        Customarily, fall is my favorite time of the year. There’s a lot of sun, the better to see little white golf balls in the green grass. The days are warm, but not too warm. The evening air is cool and bracing. Nights are great for a comfortable snooze with the windows cracked open. The turning of the leaves creates a cascade of brilliant colors etched across the landscape, crackling under one’s feet on long walks in the woods. Apple orchards and pumpkin farms do a brisk business. Many offer hayrides and scrumptious seasonal delights to savor, with the mesmerizing aromas of apple pies, cider donuts and other baked goods filling the crisp air.
        Instead, it’s 42 degrees. The skies, yep, still battleship gray. Sideways rain — check.
        For what feels like the 100th day in a row.
        So, you might ask, “Why the hell do you live there?”
        Or, more likely, you might ask, “Are you stupid, or what?”
        I suppose I should just say “guilty” and leave it at that.
        Or I could say that Midwesterners are cut from hardy stock. Braving the harsh elements is manly. No softies or wimps in our neighborhood. Living here requires clear-eyed realism, a determined set to one’s jaw, and strength of mind, body and spirit to survive. This, the oracles say, builds character.
        That’s why we like our fishing through a hole in ice thick enough to drive a truck on. We march into the woods in a primal struggle for survival against Bambi. Our men grow layers of fat and thick fuzzy beards to ward off the arctic winds. Our women can skin a buck and chug brandy, while bearing their children along the way.
        Then again, I could just tell the truth and say winter sucks but the other three weeks out of each year make it all worthwhile.
        Excuse me, please. I need to turn up the furnace.