I most assuredly am not making this up.

I can see ’em out there already. Hear ’em, even. The ice chippers.

It’s crazy season again.

That’s “crazy,” spelled I-N-T-E-L-L-E-C-T-U-A-L <dash> C-A-P-A-C-I-T-Y <space> C-H-A-L-L-E-N-G-E-D, no connection to mental health intended.

Well, O.K. Maybe a little…

Granted, every season here is crazy season, if not because the temperature often (regularly) dips double digits below 0°F, then because the Republican-MAGA supermajority in the state legislature keeps passing bills that mandate things like misdemeanor charges for anyone who provides COVID-19 shots.

Ron DeSantis racism posterchild poster

In the words of Dave Barry, “I am not making this up,” as he’s written repeatedly about his state of Florida. But – listen – all due respect to Dave, the citizens of the nutty peninsula and the global posterchild for disturbia, otherphobia and systemic racism, Ron DeSantis, but Florida’s got nothing on my own private North Dakota.

Well, not my North Dakota, exactly. Sure, I was born here. Yes, I have lived here all of my nearly 55 years. But, NO… I will not allow you or anyone else to unreasonably pin responsibility for the backwardsassity that is this state on me.

I voted against it.


Over and over and over again.

To no avail.


Meanwhile, Back on the Driveway…

Nevertheless, over the course of that same 55-year time period another, perhaps less obvious, sign of intellectual-capacity challenge has emerged. It shows up like clockwork… er… concrete work… this time of year every year on the Upper Great Plains.

Thought a woodchipper was the ultimate indicator of cuckoodom in “Fargo”? Think again.

Look instead to the ice chipper.

The chipper is not to be confused with an ice chopper, which is an actual tool. The ice chipper, on the other hand, is a category of person who, to unintentional observers, has suffered or is in the midst of suffering some sort of cerebral catastrophe.

As certainly as March Madness will commence again, ice chippers emerge from their winter cocoons to peck, strike and whack away at the ice sheets on their driveways.

Perhaps it’s a deep-seated desire to hasten the coming of spring and warmer temperatures. Perhaps it’s the too-many-days-in-a-rowism of wind chills that register at 60, 70 and more (less?) degrees below the freezing point. Maybe it’s the fabled “cabin fever” our grandmothers and grandfathers used to go on about during the pre-spring.

Whatever it is, the ice chippers are out there hacking away at a substance as solid as the concrete below, breaking off chunks and pushing them out to the street where, presumably, they’ll melt faster as temperatures climb into the mid 20s to low 30s on the unpredictable halcyon days of the third calendar month in this godforsaken land.

They’re Out There Already

Saw one today when the dogs took me out for our mid-day constitutional.

There he was, metal square-mouth shovel in hand, hacking away at his driveway in repetitive, double-fisted, pile-driver-like motions. Sure, the sky was blue and the sun was shining, but it’s not even March yet in Fargo, fercryinoutloud.

We walked on. Averted my eyes. Tried to think about something else.

Like “Fargo” – the film, not the city, especially since the former wasn’t even filmed in the latter; go figure – which nevertheless debuted in Fargo, at The Fargo Theatre, the night before it screened in Los Angeles. My wife and I were there. In Fargo, not Los Angeles. We even have one of the original movie posters they passed out that night signed by Fargo native Kristin Rudrud, who played Jean Lundegaard in the film.


One of my favorite scenes involves an ice chipper, even though most people never see his ice chopper because, well, if you’re not from ’round here you wouldn’t. And, in fairness, no ice chopper ever appears on screen. But, even so, it’s there, sure as there was a “little guy, kinda funny-lookin’” down at the establishment where Mr. Mohra, the quintessential ice chipper, had been “tendin’ bar.”

We don’t see the ice chopper because Mohra had already finished with it. It was, literarily and videographically speaking, inferred.

By the time Officer Olson showed up, Mohra was already wielding the other common tool of the ice chipper, the push broom. Well, yeah, sure, once ya get ’er all chipped up, then ya gotta sweep ’er down to the street. The ice, I mean. That’s how it goes, over and over and over again, even when “…that don’t sound like too good a deal fer him, then.”


I’m Only Gonna Say This Once


Or not like magic. More like the scientifically explainable phenomenon of ice melting in warmer temperatures.

Seriously, the only lasting results of ice chipping are little concrete divots chopped out of the driveway with all that pile-driving hullabaloo, leaving damage that lasts into true spring, summer, fall and the next winter beyond. Longer even.

So chill. Have a drink. I’m sure Mahra can rustle something up. Or, better yet, pay more attention to the deranged deliberations in the legislative session.

As sure as the ice will melt, North Dakota’s Republican-MAGA supermajority is marching unflinchingly forward to march us all backward, working tirelessly to ban books, restrict gender-affirming care, make it harder to vote and give even more power and profit to the oil and gas companies whose products are destroying our planet.

I most assuredly am not making this up.

Wait. Wait! Did I say “intellectual-capacity challenges”? Apologies. I meant VOIDs, as in erased, gone missing or never existed in the first place.

Into the Void

And as predictable as the every-other-year legislative insanity is, the annual ice chipper emergence is equally inevitable. Kinda like Punxsutawney Phil, just a month later and with fluffier hats.

But March Madness is exceedingly unpredictable, you assert, at least in the early rounds. Thus the name.

True. True. You got me there.

But we almost always have a pretty good idea of which teams will be in the Elite Eight and Final Four, just like we can be exceedingly confident the GOP-MAGA supermajority in the N.D. Legislature will pass harmful bills that are just plain dumb and that a percentage of the state’s population will attempt to wallop the ice from their driveways when they could just wait for it to melt.

Plus, trust me…

If DeSantis lived up this way, he’d be an ice chipper.

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