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Inside Sanpete, Inside Norway

By Merrill Ogden - | Mar 22, 2023

This past Monday was officially the first day of spring. It hasn’t quite felt like spring this week, has it? The weather has reminded me of the conversations I have with people occasionally about Sanpete’s weather.

I remember a conversation I had a few years ago, in an April, I believe. I spoke briefly to a friend on the street. He was a recently transplanted Southern Californian to Sanpete. As Mother Nature showered us with snowflakes, he remarked that he didn’t “get” the seasons around here.

We were looking at daffodils in bloom as he asked, “In what month doesn’t it snow here in Sanpete?” I replied that I wasn’t sure there was a Sanpete month of non-snow – at least in the mountains.

But I did tell him that I don’t believe I’ve heard of it snowing in the valley in August. But I do know people my age who would sign affidavits that it snowed at least once on the 4th of July on the valley floor.

Remembering that conversation made me think of my church mission in Norway. I occasionally mention Norway in this space. Norway has been on my mind because of the weather this year.

Adding to my Norway thoughts is that I occasionally run into people in Sanpete who went on missions to Norway as well. That happened the other day. We usually have a little greeting and small talk in Norwegian.

Some people say to me, “Oh man, learning Norwegian must have been really tough.” I just nod and say that it wasn’t easy for me. Actually, I have read that Scandinavian languages (Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish – not Finnish) are some of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn.

Weather in Sanpete can sometimes be like weather in Norway. We used to say that we had two seasons there: white winter and green winter.

We also said that we hoped that summer would fall on a weekend so we could go on a picnic. It wasn’t really that bad, but exaggeration always makes humor better.

Back in the olden days of the early 1970s in Norway, we missionaries were required to wear hats from Oct. 15 to April 15. One of the reasons for us to wear hats was supposedly to protect us from falling icicles.

There were lots of icicles hanging off the eaves of houses and apartment buildings. We heard rumors of people being killed. But I never believed that my “Dick Tracy” hat was going to give me much protection from a 30-pound lance of ice plummeting towards my noggin.

I did a little research and it seems like more people die of icicle deaths in Russia than about anywhere. Some years back, I read (in English) a strange, murder mystery. It was a popular novel titled “The Lovely Bones.” I mention it, only because a falling icicle factors significantly into the story.

As far as the hat rule went, I simply thought that we were just being asked to do the sensible thing. When it’s winter in Norway, it’s cold (duh). So, it makes sense to cover up and stay warm. Nineteen-year-old American boys in Norway don’t always do the sensible thing when left to their own decisions. So, a rule was needed, I suppose.

Every few years, my wife and I drive to the Salt Lake area for a reunion to meet with some of my comrades to remember our missionary experiences. It’s fun to reminisce about the old days in the “Land of the Midnight Sun.”

By the way, Norway is also the “Land of the Noonday Darkness” if you happen to be there in north Norway during the winter. But the tourist board conveniently neglects any mention of that aspect of the country.

At the reunions, it’s fun to eat goat cheese covered waffles, salmon, open-faced sandwiches with Jarlsberg cheese and jam, and marzipan frosted blotkake (moist cake).

Sanpete, of course, has a connection with Scandinavia. And it’s more than just our unpredictable, sometimes chilly at the wrong time, weather. Many here in the county are descendants of the early Norwegian, Swedish and Danish settlers. Maybe that’s why Sanpeters accept the weather without too much complaining. It’s just the way it is. It’s in the DNA of Olsens, Petersens, Nielsens, Jensens, and Christensens, etc.

My Norwegian DNA is mainly adopted. As far as I know, only a tiny bit of my O negative blood originated anywhere near Oslo, Stockholm or Copenhagen. But when it’s time for Scandinavian Days in Ephraim on Memorial Day weekend, I wear my Norwegian tee shirt proudly – even in the occasional late May snowstorms.

I think Sanpeters “bloom where they’re planted” — or transplanted. People who move here soon “get” how the seasons work around here. The thing to remember? — there’s nothing to “get.” You just take what Mother Nature deals out and live with it. It becomes part of your Sanpete DNA. — Merrill


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