Winter looks like a prodigy; the state mars holiday fun

Written by Jayson Jacoby December 17, 2010 11:43 am

The winter is as yet just a precocious tot, but its potential for noteworthy accomplishments is as obvious as that of a three-year-old who produces credible crayon likenesses of the family cat.

It looks as though it might be one of those winters.

You know the kind of winter I mean.

The snow underfoot doesn’t crunch — it squeaks.

The nostrils clench in that peculiar way if you stay outside for more than a few minutes.

Mornings, windshields are coated with rime that seems as impregnable as some exotic alloy used in spacecraft or ballistic missiles.

The snow and the Arctic temperatures barged in early, in time for pumpkin pie and the year’s best bargains.

We haven’t endured so much weather in November in Baker County since 1993.

That’s the month when real winters — “those” winters, if you will — get going.

A spell of 20 below or a heavy fall of snow in January or February is to be expected, even if it’s merely an interlude in an otherwise nondescript season.

But the winters people remember — the ones they reminisce about decades later, almost as if they were cherished relatives — necessarily share two attributes.

The first is duration.

The cold must be entrenched by Thanksgiving, and it ought to linger, with only brief balmy interruptions, at least until St. Patrick’s Day.

The second ingredient is an extreme event, ideally half a dozen or more.

These can be either an especially frigid morning — 15 below is a pretty fair threshold — a blizzard or an ice storm.

In a pinch, a period of freezing fog, which transforms every tree and strand of barbed wire into a hoar-frost sculpture, will do as well.

The inclement beginning to this winter is no surprise to the meteorologists, who have been issuing dire warnings, related to ocean surface temperatures, for some months now.

(Although that Aumsville tornado seemed to shake them up some.)

Lacking the forecasters’ ability to control orbiting satellites, with their raptor-like vision and ringside seats for the violent collisions of air masses, I fall back on prosaic rather than scientific observations.

We had a bit of a struggle to get in the Christmas tree. But for a logging operation that kept the road plowed, we might not have found a suitable grand fir.

And even then the snow was such that a little girl had to holler for a rescue when she plunged into a particularly deep drift and got rolled onto her back, rather like a crab flipped by the tide.

She’s still talking about it, too.

I suspect that this winter, whatever the rest of it brings, will be memorable in at least one respect.


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I had been hoping to acquire a Bigfoot, but it seems that I waited too long.

And if you were planning to put a crocodile under your Christmas tree, well, you might want to dig out instead that toll-free number for the Chia Pet/The Clapper cabal.

(And honestly, is there a better way to solve that eternal gift-giving quandary, “what do you get for the person who has everything,” than by wrapping up a carnivorous reptile?)

The obstacle here is not, however, the dwindling number of shopping days.

It’s the Oregon Legislature.

Those law-writing killjoys have what seems to me an unhealthy interest in the types of pets their constituents own.

The state already requires that you obtain from the Oregon Department of Agriculture a permit should you want to board any of a veritable menagerie of what the state deems “exotic animals.”

But starting Jan. 1, the Department, under the direction of the Legislature, will cease to issue such permits.

And one of the affected categories is “non-human primates.”

Thanks, Legislature, for quashing my dream of Bigfoot ownership.

Even if I manage to secure a Sasquatch before New Year’s Day — unlikely, what with work and family commitments, and now all the snow — the state won’t give me a permit because I haven’t had possession of the creature for a full year.

Salem also is putting the kibosh, as I mentioned, on crocodiles.

And for you clever scofflaws who figured you could outfox the Legislature by bringing an alligator back from some bayou, don’t bother — the politicians are wise to that ploy.

Last year the Legislature rewrote the law, defining family Crocodylidae to include alligators as well.

(You can also forget about that Brazilian caiman, smart guy.)

Now I’ll concede that the government, under the guise of protecting the public, can justify exerting some level of control over the animals that live among us.

I mean I wouldn’t want to come home and find that the feline munching Fancy Feast on the front porch is a cheetah rather than a tabby.

(Although my niece, Hannah, would be pleased; she adores cheetahs.)

But it seems to me that requiring owners to get a permit is sufficient oversight — especially since the law allows state officials to inspect the owner’s home to ensure the exotic species is being kept in a satisfactory “holding facility,” which I presume is a structure rather more secure than a cardboard box.

In announcing the impending ban on issuing permits, the Agriculture Department, to its credit, authored a lengthy press release.

It’s an entertaining read — hilarious, even, though I doubt intentionally so.

For instance, the release quotes a Department official who explains, with refreshing candidness, that the Legislature’s ultimate goal is to rid Oregon of exotic species through attrition.

Although existing permits will be honored after Jan. 1, they will expire, permanently and irreplaceably, when the permitted animal does the same.

In other words, your elderly ocelot’s papers won’t vouch for that juvenile lynx you’ve had your eye on.

The official’s quote, though, doesn’t exactly clarify the matter: “As long as the currently permitted animal is alive, the owners will be able to have it legally.”

So is the dead crocodile in your neighbor’s Jacuzzi illegal?

Or do carcasses — even exotic carcasses — not require a permit?

What is clear, though, is that the day will come in Oregon when you can be certain of this:

That Rhesus macaque that’s swinging from the aspen in your backyard is not government-sanctioned.


Jayson Jacoby is editor of the Baker City Herald. He has never seen a Bigfoot in the wild. Or any member of the crocodile family.