January was named for Janus, the Roman God of Doors and Gateways, which translates into a new beginning. The first month was named for him because it begins a new year and new beginnings. The only question I seemed to have answered correctly on the entire winter quiz. You see my Ozark friend, Jim McCarty of Hermitage, Missouri, sent me an absurd winter quiz recently, which I flunked so miserably. Maybe that’s because I’ve never been too crazy about cold weather and snowmen; I would rather put the convertible top down and feel the warm summer breeze blowing through my hair.

Through my eyes, the bare trees look so much better with green leaves on them and I love the pretty flowers. Winter does have a few advantages I guess, like the Christmas spirit, basted turkey, and those lovable Valentine cards. The winter fashions seem to have more style and class, but I would trade them for warm weather and sunshine any day.

The winter quiz had other ridiculous questions like: Who created the story of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – which animals do, or do not hibernate – and why is snow white?

Maybe it was a good learning experience for me, because I had always assumed Gene Autry had created the ninth reindeer, after all he sang the song. I can remember as a very young lad, my sister Margie and I cranking up the old Victrola in the living room, and playing Rudolf on the old 78s over and over, time and again. But, of course, I was wrong. It seems Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was actually a brainchild of an ad writer for the Montgomery Ward Company back in 1939. I also learned that all reindeer, including Rudolph, subsist primarily on small insects, grass, leaves, moss, and lichens obtained by scraping away the white snow with their antlers and hooves, and none of them know how to fly!

I suppose as an artist, I should have known why snow is white. Actually, it is not white at all, but instead is as clear as the frozen water it was formed from. Each separate, individual crystal has many reflective surfaces; combining all of the colors of the rainbow making them only appear white. Do you remember learning that concept back in your high school art classes? Yeah!

And bears, I’ve always known for a fact that bears hibernated in the winter. I am not sure where I learned that, also probably back in my school days. But this quiz said bears do not hibernate. Although the term hibernation is often applied to the winter inactivity of bears, their dormancy differs from hibernation in important ways. Unlike hibernating animals, bears only experience a slight drop in body temperatures and metabolism during a long winters sleep. I’ll take their word for it, because I have no intention of going out in the woods to awaken a sleeping bear to verify their claim.

Another thing I learned was that according to Greek mythology, Demeter, the Goddess of Grain and Harvest is responsible for all of this cold weather. She caused winter because of her grief when Hades, the God of the Underworld, abducted her daughter, Persephone. Demeter's grief was so great that she neglected the land to a point no plants could grow, and famine devastated the Earth. Here all of this time I thought it had to do with the jet streams, science, and the tilt of the Earth’s axis. Back in school I learned that daylight hours were shorter and average temperatures were decreased because our northern hemisphere was tilted further away from the direct rays of the sun. Silly me.

-- To reach Ted W. Stillwell, send an email to Ted@blueandgrey.com or call him at 816-896-3592.