From the cold woods of Richland County, I went straight to the balmy temperatures of northern California. I like them both, but I couldn't live every day in perfect weather. I am a Wisconsin guy.
On the weekend before Thanksgiving, I took my annual trek to my friend Jordy Jordahl's deer camp on a farm north of Richland Center. It was the coldest opening weekend of gun deer season in recent memory. When we got to our stands before first light on Saturday, Nov. 23, the temperature was 18°F with a strong wind from the northwest. By the time we left our stands ten hours later, the temperature had fallen and the winds had not subsided.
There was a sense of accomplishment for just having stayed there in the woods for the entire day, long enough to see the sun rise and set along the same ridge top. I saw ten deer, and did not take a shot at any of them, but I counted it a day well spent.
Over the following two days, I repeated the experience with similar results: a peaceful time in the woods and fields, but no venison to show for it. In fact, the only deer taken that weekend were shot by the three youngest guys in camp. Jonas Rhude and Westin Feltz shot nice bucks and Jonas Dunham Jordahl got a big doe. Their fathers and the other old guys in camp were shut out. Nobody cared. We were happy for the young guys.
As soon as I returned from deer camp Dianne and I flew west to join some family for Thanksgiving. When we left Chicago it was snowing. When we arrived in San Francisco it was 60°F and sunny.
Everyone in California moaned about Wisconsin weather as if the entire state was a Siberian gulag. But I like cold. It's too much to say that it builds character, but finding ways to not just put up with it, but to celebrate the cold, does shape you into a different person than inhabitants of places where a week of rain counts as hardship.
The brandy Manhattan and the sharp cheddar and the venison sausage and the grilled steak taste that much better after having spent ten hours out there in the elements. You feel like it's a reward that you earned in a way that you just couldn't had the winds been mild.
I love California, but I love Wisconsin better. I couldn't live without the cold.