Inedible doughnuts are cure for winter blues

Writer’s note: I was staring into the abyss when I should have been writing, so here’s the column that ran in the Hastings Tribune Feb. 16, 2012.

Hunka Burnin’ Hubby and I are rosy-faced and breathless from a snowshoeing trek with the Schlueterville setters. Mid-winter is dense, cold and crusty, and each step took significant effort. Our progress was slow, and the usual chatter was replaced with foggy, huffing breaths. Snowshoes can be whisper-quiet in fresh powder, but tonight they were chain-saw noisy; bread knives slicing through squeaky Styrofoam blocks.

I hit the wall about this time each year. It’s the sweatpants/floppy socks time of year when I struggle to keep from hibernating under a heavy, down-filled comforter, or lock myself in the closet with a sheet cake and a fork. Hunka Burnin’ Hubby is a master at recognizing the signs.
“Let’s go for a drive,” he says. “No place special, just to check out the landscape.”

The setters are content to let us go, opting to sleep belly-up in their ridiculously cushy beds. “Bring us back a treat,” they seem to say. “We’ll hold down the fort while you’re away.”

The diesel engine churns, and a 21-foot truck lurches through dark, glassy streets. The interior is warm, and I settle into the seat like a snoozing setter. We’re quiet; content to watch the passing parade of icicled roof and trodden snow. It’s late, and traffic is all but nonexistent. The smart people are asleep under down-filled comforters.

We pass a big box store, and Hunka turns suddenly into the parking lot. I spot the evil look in his eye, and an alarm rings in my head.

“DON’T. YOU. DARE!” I yell, but before the words are out, Hunka jerks the wheel, hits the gas and the behemoth truck spins wildly on a giant rink of ice.

The squeal I make is a combination of trapped animal and nails on blackboard. My vision blurs, but I catch a glimpse of a grinning man possessed. His knuckles are white on the wheel, and the years peel away from his face. In each of our 28 married Februarys, this has always been Hunka’s one-fingered salute to the drudgery of winter. We’ve done this dance more times than I can count, and though spinning doughnuts may be childish and potentially dangerous, it is nonetheless ridiculously thrilling and exhilarating.

We slide to a stop, and he looks over and wags his eyebrows. “Ready to go again?” he challenges.

I survey the landscape for cops, and say a quick prayer that the jailhouse jumpsuits will favor my complexion.

“Yep!” I laugh. Hunka lets out a joyous whoop, stomps on the gas, and “ZA-WING!” away we go, waltzing Ford-tilda beneath the parking lot lights.

I don’t know when Schlueterville will enter the age of maturity, but it’s a sure bet it won’t happen on a deserted, ice-slicked parking lot in the dead of February.

Thank goodness for that.

Tamera Schlueter

Tam Schlueter adopts a "strike-fast-and-keep-them-laughing" approach to writing. Her column appears every Thursday in the Hastings Tribune, and showcases the wonder of family, dogs, muscle cars, and folks with blue collars and no-nonsense attitudes.

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