How Cold Is It?

We wondered what the weather would be like out here before our move to the Massanutten Mountains. We were used to plenty of snow and cold weather having lived in the midwest our entire lives. Our last winter there we had around 100 inches of snow and it got down to 30 and 40 below quite often. People around here call it BRUTAL when it gets anywhere below the freezing mark. Our ground still isn’t frozen this winter. “How cold is it?” is a common question asked all over the country. A stock answer is “It’s cold enough to….(you fill in the rest).

In the heyday of sailing ships, all war ships and many freighters carried iron cannons. Those cannons fired round iron cannon balls. It was necessary to keep a good supply near the cannon. However, how to prevent them from rolling around the deck was the problem. The best storage method devised was a square-based pyramid with one ball on top, resting on four resting on nine, which rested on sixteen. Thus, a supply of 30 cannon balls could be stacked in a small area right next to the cannon. There was only one problem…how to prevent the bottom layer from sliding or rolling from under the others.

The solution was a metal plate called a ‘Monkey’ with 16 round indentations. However, if this plate was made of iron, the iron balls would quickly rust to it. The solution to the rusting problem was to make ‘Brass Monkeys.’ Few landlubbers realize that brass contracts much more and much faster than iron when chilled. Consequently, when the temperatures dropped too far, the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannonballs would come right off the monkey. Thus, it was quite literally, ‘Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.’ (All this time, you thought that was an improper expression, didn’t you?)

Keep your fork

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