You have permission to edit this article.

Several lessons from a previous winter's tale

  • Updated

If memory serves me correctly, before last week we had roughly an inch of snow back around the turn of the millennium, the fabled White Christmas of 1989, a big ice storm in the late '70s, the Blizzard of 1973 - and that's about all I can remember in my 57 years of observing winter precipitation along the coast, except for the occasional smattering of ice and snow.

That doesn't mean we haven't had plenty of cold weather per se, as last month clearly demonstrated.

Was it in January of 1985 when we had the unbelievable cold snap with temperatures down around 10 degrees or so? A lot of gardeners and professional nurseries paid dearly for that one. And what about The Storm of the Century in March of 1993, the 13th to be exact, when March's lion gave one final roar and sent temperatures plummeting and water pipes bursting.

Anyway, last week's situation had the local meteorologists all aflutter because of the rare triad of freezing rain, sleet and snow being wrapped up in the same weather system. I wouldn't have noticed, but Josh and Rob and the rest of the gang down at News 2 were about to have a stroke talking about it, so I guess it was an interesting mix.

As I've said before, all this cold weather is great (for a limited period of time, of course), but don't do what I did during a duck shoot several years ago - which is something really stupid.

It was so cold that there was ice everywhere. Even the reeds appeared to be hunkered down and shivering, and a glistening layer of frost permeated an arctic feel to an otherwise brilliant morning. I'd like to say that it was fun watching the ducks trying to land on ice and then skating on forever, but it wasn't quite that cold.

It was cold enough so that the ditches were frozen over though. Usually I'd just walk around them, but for some reason I thought I'd just go ahead and cross over, thinking the layer of ice was more than adequate to bear my weight. Well, it wasn't cold enough for that either, as I quickly broke through and plunged in way over my waders.

For you '90s TV fans, that would be known as a Seinfeld moment.

Something to do with bone-chilling pain and the effects on bodily organs and voice modulation - a phenomenon seen only in men. After climbing out, I thought I'd probably be better off just leaving the water inside the waders and hoping that I'd start to experience the "comfort" of a wetsuit.

It was while walking along and contemplating this situation that I tripped into a live electrical wire used to retain livestock. So there I was standing in water, as it were, and am here now to confirm that whereas water clearly does conduct electricity, so does rubber, and I don't care what physicists say. Because somehow that jolt of electricity went through the waders and practically set my teeth on fire. Explain that, why don't you!

There are several lessons to this tale, all of which are obvious - except maybe the business about rubber being a conductor.


A few columns back I ran a brief survey of some of the more interesting terms used to describe gatherings (a "murmuration" of starlings and so forth.) In a book by James Lipton titled "An Exaltation of Larks" are more than 1,000 such terms, which will certainly elicit, as the late comedy writer Larry Gelbart observed, a chorus of approval and a clap of hands.

As an example, and under the category of High Life, can be found the following:

An ennui of the haute bourgeoisie

A sneer of butlers

An uppity of snobs

A frost of dowagers

An indifference of waiters

A spill of busboys

A soupcon of chefs

A pouf of hairdressers

An ensemble of couturiers

A boulevard of bon vivants

A sclerosis of fast foods

A canapé of caterers

A delicatessen of gourmands

A buzz of barflies

A trip of hippies

A streak of gamblers

A relish of connoisseurs ...

... And much, much more!

Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at edwardgilbreth@

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


Breaking News

Columbia Breaking News

Greenville Breaking News

Myrtle Beach Breaking News

Aiken Breaking News