Grasshopper Soup: From true stories of the big freeze

Bob Sweigert
Special to the Sun

TAHOE CITY, Calif. – What good is a cold snap without frozen pipes? A cold snap sounds harmless enough, like a dry spell, until you turn the shower on and all you get from the shower head is a hissing sound you can be fairly sure is a negative reaction to you standing there naked as a jay bird wondering how something like this could occur in modern times.

You are in dire need of a shower and have to be at work soon. The disruption of civilization was not on your schedule, and it could only get worse. The cold snap was forecast for another week.

The pipes are so frozen you can’t even get a cold shower, and spraying yourself with half a bottle of deodorant and leaving your hair looking like a raccoon nest will not earn you employee of the month, but everyone else where you work is probably having the same kind of morning. You’ll all show up for work looking like something the cat just dragged in and have a great time making fun of each other or pretending you don’t notice.

If your boss’s pipes didn’t freeze, and he or she looks and smells like a rose when you get to work, just think, this could be the perfect day to ask for a raise.

Look on the bright side. Life is easier when the pipes are frozen. You save time and soap.

Extreme cold like we have had in Tahoe, although not the norm, separates the men from the boys. The men stay inside while the boys run outside under-dressed, to play in the snow and get hypothermia. No matter how hard the boys try to throw snowballs at each other, they can’t, because it is impossible to make snow balls with snow this cold. One of them solves the problem by grabbing a chunk of ice. It throws very well, right through a window, just missing his cousin’s face, avoiding bloodshed, this time. The adults are drawn into the fray and everyone is together again trying to sort out what happened and figure out how to fix the window before everyone freezes.

A deep freeze separates the flatlanders from the mountain folk. Putting on clean clothes without a shower every morning during a cold snap of sub zero temperatures is as easy as getting on and off a chair lift or skiing backwards.

Now that I’ve mentioned skiing, the compulsion for political correctness I feel demands that I give equal time to snowboarding. If putting clean clothes on without a shower was easy it would be called snowboarding. Everyone should be happy to know that skiers and snowboarders are all one big happy family here in Tahoe because some skiers and snowboarders get dressed without a shower even when the pipes aren’t frozen.

And you thought I would never give in to popular feelings of political correctness.

The frozen pipes burst three days ago so the whole family and all the dishes are dirty too. You decide to go out to dinner. Fortunately, your extra layer of dry sweat acts as natural insulation so you won’t need a clean T-shirt. You can just throw on any old thing you want, which is really the only choice you have because you have not been able to do laundry for six days.

Everything is going well. The kids are easier to get ready because there’s no reason to change clothes, comb hair or brush teeth. Dad remembers to not de-ice the windshield by pouring a bucket of hot water on it like he did last year, shattering the windshield. The kids jump in the car brandishing six foot long icicles, but this time it’s not just the boys, it’s the girls too.

The adults are looking forward to a cocktail and some steak and lobster or roast duck. Dad took twenty minutes to find his glasses, gloves, wallet and car keys. “Is everybody ready?” he shouts. To a resounding “Yes! Lets go!” he turns the key but the car won’t start. He tries again and again and again. Nothing.

Thank God for grilled cheese sandwiches.

Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, former college instructor and ski instructor. He has a B.A. and an M.A.T. from Gonzaga University. He has lived at Lake Tahoe for 30 years.

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