Nebraska Center for Writers

by Bryan L Jones

THE WINTER OF 1968-69 came early to Nebraska. Dirty snow piles thrived in the shelter belts well before Thanksgiving. By Christmas, with cornfields under three feet of glazed snow, stockmen faced four months of bawling cows and dwindling hay. January brought twenty straight days of sub-zero temperatures. Normal cafe lamentations gained a certain urgency. The only light spot, aside from the usual run of stale Nixon jokes, was the communal anticipation that, if Lyle ran true to form, some of the immigrants would be getting an education before this cold snap was finished.
Lyle, school custodian extraordinaire, regarded the brutal winter as a heavenly gift. What better opportunity to expose certain pushy administrators and newish faculty members to the realities of life? In between hands of solitaire, cozy in the bowels of the school's ancient boiler room, Lyle allowed the temperature upstairs to drop. Not all at once, but a degree or two a day, until the thermometer rested uncomfortably at 39 degrees. Cold enough those mud-tracking little fourth graders could see their breath, cold enough that every oven door in the school kitchen was open and breathing fire, but no cold enough to freeze pipes.
Let the yowling begin.

Reprinted with permission
from Nebraska Life
Copyright © 1998
by Bryan L Jones

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The Rock

Nebraska Center for Writers