I had just escaped the clutches of a colossal cold.

Once defrosted, I headed to a gig at a fine Minnesota college where I’d decided to walk at 5 in the morning. I had an hour to hoof it until breakfast. I’m not sure what the temperature was on the treadmill in my hotel, but it was 2° outside where I walked. Being a good Minnesotan, I found warmth in knowing that it was above zero. Walking helps me think. I hadn’t walked long before I thought it might have been a good idea to have covered my ears with something warm. Even mashed potatoes would have helped. A hat with ear flaps, a watch cap, earmuffs or one of those 1/4-mile long scarves would have been welcome. A utility worker told me that earmuffs were like socks, they kept his feet warm. He likely flunked anatomy. I had some earbuds in my pocket, but I’d have been concerned if they’d have provided any heat.

Why wasn’t I wearing any ear covering? Because it makes it hard to hear me when I talk to myself.

High school coaches had told knuckleheaded me about the importance of stocking caps. Going outside with wet hair was apparently the way the bubonic plague had started. I wore a stocking cap in the shower in mock protest. Bad idea. Someone isn’t always watching out for stupid people. It wasn’t long after that when I contracted quinsy. I doubt it was because of the stocking cap in the shower incident, but I ended up missing a lot of school and most of the basketball season. I spent quality time in the capable company of Doc Olds. By the time I’d become well, I’d nearly convinced him I wasn’t a dimwit.

In my boyhood, my mother insisted I wear an itchy stocking cap in cold weather. She’d pull it down over my head, bending one my best ears in the process. My entire body commenced to itching. Mother insisted I’d be thankful later. I walked to the end of the driveway to wait for the school bus. I put the stocking cap in a culvert there. I boarded the bus without a stocking cap and when I got off the bus in the afternoon, I retrieved it from the culvert and put it on. Boy, the things a guy does to keep his mother happy. That was one way to ensure that I never lost a cap. It was safe in the culvert unlike the gloves or mittens that I couldn’t keep from losing.

I led a tour of northern Minnesota on a packed bus filled with folks from Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Texas. It was -33°. It warmed and I heard, “You’re telling us it’s up to -31°?” They each wore more clothing than I owned. It was a good idea. The bus went into the ditch and we strolled a breakwater on Lake Superior.

I often wear a hat to cover my north end. Generally, it’s a dad hat. A baseball cap. It’s a tasteful lid in earth tones, displaying a symbol of a granddaughter’s basketball team. Some dad hats prove fathers don’t always know best.

I grew up thinking hats were superfluous. Now, I swear, guys put on hats before eating. It’s the modern way of dressing for dinner.

I have another hat with earflaps. The hat says Norge on it. It was made for massive melons like mine in Norway. It’s a much-appreciated gift from an area family who had made me an honorary member. A voice from my past declared gelid days as being earlapper weather. He used earlaps to describe the two flaps attached to a cap to keep ears warm.

He told a tale of plodding along on a frigid morning when he heard something hit the ground and make the sound of fine crystal shattering. It was his ear. He hadn’t been wearing a hat with earlaps.

I had him. It was great fun catching a grownup in a lie. I pointed out the fact that he had two ears. He said he knew that. He’d gathered the bits of his broken ear in his hands and blew on them until he made it to his house. Once the shattered pieces had thawed, he glued his ear back together. He claimed all the jigsaw puzzles he’d put together had given him the skill to do the job.

I could tell which ear it was. It was the one tilted slightly toward the sun.

Al Batt is a writer, speaker, storyteller and humorist from rural Hartland, Minnesota. He can be reached at snoeowl@aol.com.

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