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Squirrel watching is a great pastime

Dear Shirley, Some people check the weather map in the paper or watch the weather channel on TV to find out how cold it is on these January days. All I do is look out the window. If the squirrels are frolicking, I know it's a mild day. If the squ...

Dear Shirley,

Some people check the weather map in the paper or watch the weather channel on TV to find out how cold it is on these January days. All I do is look out the window. If the squirrels are frolicking, I know it's a mild day. If the squirrels are under cover, I know it's very cold. And that is how it's been most of this week. No squirrels. But we have ups and downs.

The house gets drier than your Sonoran Desert when it's way below zero. I fill up the sinks and bathtubs and leave the teakettle steaming on the stove to get some moisture into the air. Otherwise, I get a shock every time I turn around. And I know the humidity is low when my hair stands on end when I comb it.

Since Christmas, a lot more people have those automatic car starters. The parking lots are full of cars with the motors purring and waiting for their owners. I have an auto start key for my car, too, but I don't know how to use it.

I keep thinking of a radio guy who used to promote the idea, "We live here because we like it here." It's kind of like a mantra and you have to keep repeating it on some of these bitter cold days. I think the radio guy has long ago moved south.

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When I am not looking for squirrels, I check over my heating bills. Know what, Shirley? I paid Xcel Energy $312.66 after December last year and $266.34 after this December. I try not to think about this month. I know the furnace will keep chewing up gas through March and maybe April. And that's about the time your air conditioning will kick in down there in Tucson.

Planning a winter trip, of course, makes sense when you live on the Northern Plains. What's hot around here is Mexico in January. What's not is a picnic at the Peace Garden. What's hot is a cruise in the Caribbean. What's not is sunbathing in Duluth. What's hot is a tanning bed or a fitness center. What's not is the first tee box at King's Walk.

Kathryn Aubol of Monarch Travel says the phones just go nuts when the temperatures go down in January. Those who have passports want a trip to Mexico. Otherwise, they like cruises. Anywhere. They say, "Just get me out of here." And Bob Johnson of Stengle & Johsnon travel says people have been wanting to get out "big time." One of the top destinations has been Playa Del Carmen just south of Cancun in Mexico. And the bargains have been on charter flights out of Minneapolis. Johnson says travel has been busier than ever this winter. He thought the passport requirements would slow things down, but people just get their passports and go.

Bonnie Rygg of Bon Voyage Travel says Cancun is back and better than ever since the hurricane. Area people are finding bargains in Mexico. They also are booking Caribbean cruises and Mediterranean cruises. And those who look far ahead are booking summer cruises to Alaska.

My son-in-law, Curt, takes his annual trip to Denver each January for the Stock Show. When he left the ranch near Sterling, Colo., last week, he left the gate to the bullpen open. Carol had to call a couple of neighbors to help corral 21 critters. I think I would have cowered in the house!

Love from your sister, Marilyn, worrying about the oranges in California on the banks of the Red River of the North.

P.S.: We are in for a little respite from the cold, but after so many days of sub-zero temperatures anything above zero seems like a heat wave.

Reach Hagerty at mhagerty@gfherald.com or telephone 772-1055.

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