McGregor Says: Too cold for penguins

I read a rather disconcerting report that officials at the Calgary Zoo recently brought the penguins inside because it was “too cold.” If there was ever an indicator of climate change it is penguins asking to come inside and watch TV instead of playing in the snow.

The manager of communications for the zoo told reporters, “On cold days like this, we have to make that choice for them because it is so cold, but on other days, we do give them the option of coming in and out as they please.”

Obviously my parents are not running the Calgary Zoo.

When it snowed, we were in or we were out and if we went out we could not plead it was too cold to get back in. The fresh air was good for us and we could not come in and out as we pleased.

Part of the problem is what the penguins are wearing. When they moult they shed everything and grow new feathers and fur.

They don’t keep anything behind for layering when the temperatures drop.

At the first snow fall my Mom would get us to drag out the winter trunk.

This trunk contained woolen snow pants, mittens, toques, scarves and long johns. When you opened it, the stale, musty odour of many winters past came wafting out and took your breath away.

There were no bright nylon jackets or vinyl snow pants and no gaily coloured hats or water proof gloves, just dark, heavy woolen garments.

If you had grown over the summer, Mom did not pick up a flyer and see who was having a sale, there was a simpler solution.

Jimmy got Jack’s stuff, Gordy got Jim’s and Kenny got Gordy’s clothes. Jack was in the Air Force so his was all supplied by the government now. This is called Planned Parenthood.

On went the long johns and a pair of woolen socks, then jeans, then snow pants that weighed a ton even before they got wet, and finally a coat that came down to your knees.

Top all that off with a scarf, mittens and either a toque or a hat with ear flaps and you waddled out into the snow.

No wonder my brothers and I never won a snow ball fight.

But we had lots of neighbour kids. We built snow forts or snow men and if our wet hands got cold we knew we could not run home crying, we had been taught to shake our hands vigorously, enduring intense pain, until the circulation came back.

I wonder if penguins can be trained to do that.

When I finally dragged at least one little brother home on the sled Dad had made from plywood, we were let in and told to hang up our snow clothes. Woolen clothes drying over a heater is a smell that is never forgotten.

Don’t be surprised to hear that the lions at the Vancouver Zoo need sun screen next summer.

At least that’s what McGregor says.

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