Learning from a Wisconsin winter

Jerry Apps
Snow covered woods Waushara County, Wis.

In 1956, I was in the army, stationed at Fort Eustis, Virginia, which is a few miles from Williamsburg. I arrived there in January and the first thing I noticed was—they had no winter. I saw a fellow washing his car. Unheard of in Wisconsin in January.

As strange as it may sound, I found myself missing winter. I liked skiing and snow-shoeing. I liked ice fishing. I liked being outside on a snowy day, when big snowflakes were falling. I missed the subtle sound as they fell. I missed how beautiful the countryside was all dressed in white. I missed all of that in Fort Eustis, Virginia, while I wore an army uniform.

Many years later I wrote a book titled The Quiet Season: Remembering Country Winters. PBS Wisconsin produced an hour-long documentary based on the book, titled Farm Winter. In the book and the TV show I talked about winter, and its positive points.

Here is a bit from the introduction to the book: “Over the years I have come to appreciate and even enjoy northern winters. But I’ve also learned that there is more to winter than snow and ice and bitter cold. Winter has shaped me in ways that go deeper than I am even aware. Living through a real winter—a northern winter—affects how we think, influences what we believe is important, and causes us to relate to other people in a particular way.”

In the last chapter of the book I wrote, “Of all the seasons, winter is the most striking and most influential on the lives of the people who experience it...winter is more than cold and snow, frozen water pipes, slippery roads, and dark and dreary days."

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Think about it. There is much to be learned from a Wisconsin winter.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work, go to