Saturday, April 6, 2024

How last winter became a dud...

Written By Jim Heffernan for the DuluthNewsTribune 04-06-24

 It’s been a rough several months for Old Man Winter. Things didn’t go the way they always had in the past for the ageless leader of our snowiest season.


For one thing, his relationship with the Queen of the Snows had deteriorated to the point where all they could agree on for winter 2023-24 were a few flurries.


Old Man Winter had been planning to bring a normal winter to the upper Midwest, just as he had done for the past several hundred decades. A smattering of snow in November to prepare everyone for a couple of good dumps of snow in early December in preparation for a white Christmas.


“That’s how we’ve always done it,” the old man complained to neighbor Jack Frost. “Then that Snow Queen started interfering. She wanted to hold off — who knows why? So, what happens? No white Christmas. Was anybody dreaming of a brown Christmas?”


The old man shifted his considerable weight on the iceberg where his massive throne rises from the ice of the Arctic Ocean. The Snow Queen spends her time nearby on a cake of ice that also plays host to a couple of polar bears and an igloo.


“I’m not getting any younger,” said the Snow Queen. “I’m getting sick and tired of dumping snow on so many older folks who have to get out and shovel all the time. What’s the harm of one winter without measurable snow?”


Jack Frost didn’t see it that way. “What’s with all that above freezing weather?” complained Frost. “I haven’t iced up a window in months.”


North Pole observers say the powers that control our winters have been in gridlock since late 2023 when the cold season began and winter was supposed to get under way.


“Nobody told me we weren’t going to have a white Christmas,” said St. Nicholas, who lives nearby with a bunch of elves in a rustic log house. “I was all set to make my usual Christmas Eve run on my sleigh delivering toys to children when the reindeer balked.”


“How’re we supposed to land on snowless roofs?” asked red-nosed Rudolph, spokesdeer for Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and the rest.


Santa knew they had a problem. Wheels instead of runners on the sleigh? He didn’t know what to do so he contacted Old Man Winter for help.


“I can’t get the Snow Queen to budge,” Old Man Winter responded to Santa’s appeal.


Well, to make a long story short, Santa and the reindeer went ahead with their Christmas journey in spite of the lack of snow, but it just wasn’t the same. They found themselves dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones they used to know.


Enter January and the new year. Still no snow to speak of and Old Man Winter was getting more and more agitated with the Snow Queen’s recalcitrance. “Holy smokes, we can’t let North America go the whole winter without snow,” Old Man Winter scolded.


“Try me,” responded the Snow Queen.


So, it went through January and February, which even saw a couple of thaws, not that there was anything much to thaw out. Yards were brown, streets and highways were clear. Jack Frost was disconsolate.


Then came March, the month everybody knows traditional winter starts to let up, although it can sometimes be pretty severe.


Old Man Winter’s iceberg was starting to show signs of melting when the Snow Queen drifted over on her ice cake. She seemed down in the dumps.


“What’s up?” asked the old man.


“It seems like I’ve lost my purpose in life,” said the Snow Queen. “Everybody says what’s the use of having a Snow Queen if it never snows?”


Old Man Winter breathed a sigh of relief. “It’s not too late, your majesty,” he said. “It’s still March, for heaven’s sake.”


So, the two of them put their heads together and hatched a plan. They’d dump a couple of feet of snow on traditional Holy Week and make it a white Easter. Jack Frost was pleased with that.


But St. Nicholas was not. “Who was dreaming of a white Easter?” he declared. The Easter Bunny declined to comment.


Jim Heffernan is a former Duluth News Tribune news and opinion writer and continues as a columnist. He can be reached at and maintains a blog at