Welcome to the frozen tundra

By Jeff Petersen, The Observer February 07, 2014 11:09 am

La Grande’s population has just about doubled overnight.

No, we weren’t discovered by urban refugees or a Rajneeshe-like cult. There wasn’t a story in the Los Angeles Times telling Californians they could sell their studio apartment there and buy a city block here.

The population’s doubling had to do with a winter invasion. After the recent storms, snowmen were popping up everywhere — and even a few unidentified icy creations that might have been bigfoot, Tyrannosaurus Rex and a swamp monster.

Some snowpeople were outstanding in their fields. Take the lonely snowman on watch for storms ready to drop out of the Blue Mountains from his vantage point in Pioneer Park. 

Others populated school playgrounds and front yards.

The snow sculptures were mostly the creation of children. Their enthusiasm for snow art — and windburned cheeks — knows no bounds.

Adults, however, are another story. By early February, most adults have grown tired of snow. This year, thanks to a lingering drought, though, and a temporary high from the Seattle Seahawks winning the Super Bowl, many adults still have a hankering for snow, and children are beside themselves anticipating the next flakes to fall from the sky.

They love the snow like the draft horse loves the puppy in the Super Bowl Budweiser commercial.

Perhaps children are impervious to cold. Perhaps they are wired to build bigger snowballs every chance they get. When the snowballs get big enough, they gather several of their strongest friends together to build the standard three-tiered snowman that stands tall and proud for a while until it warms up and becomes the Biggest Loser.

Snow for adults, however, is a lot like grass in summer. Most of us eagerly fire up the lawnmower in April and enthusiastically do laps around the lawn, anticipating a favorite-beverage award at the finish line.

By July, our enthusiasm has dwindled to the point where we begin contemplating turning the blasted acre — or has it by now grown to 40 acres? – into a rock garden. 

Snow is similar. We shovel the first big storm with glee. We are thrilled with the changing of the seasons and snow’s magic carpet that covers everything in the yard, including the broken-down washing machine and car bodies.

By February, most years, we are eagerly eyeing travel brochures from Palm Springs and have nine new words for snow, none of which is printable in a family newspaper.

If we can’t travel, the next best thing is to emulate Shaun White and fling ourselves off a snowboarding jump at our own personal Winter Olympics, hoping to put ourselves out of our misery.

The point is, if the census takers came around right after a big snowfall, the population of La Grande would double to 26,000.

Soon, in July, when it begins to warm up and the Sochi Winter Olympics are in the rear-view mirror, these works of snow art will have disappeared. 

We’ll have nine words for the heat, and nine other words for the rapidly growing grass, none printable in a family newspaper.

Contact Jeff Petersen at 541-963-3161 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Follow Jeff on Twitter @lagrandenewsGo.