Well. That was cold.

Jeesh. Whatís the use of living in the deep South if you gotta have cold like that?

Iíd live in the mountains lickety-split if I liked cold. I donít so I just want to visit the mountains in spring and summer.

Living in an old house with very, very old plumbing presents a set of challenges for me I havenít yet surmounted.

I figure the plumbing is original and probably dates to the 1940s. There are newer sections installed in the last few years, but I have not insulated the pipes because I want to replace all the old sections first. Therefore to be safe I turn off the water when temperatures threaten.

My routine is quite simple, though dreaded. I make sure all the dishes are washed. I make a coffeepot for in the morning (I can barely walk when I first wake up without my coffee.) I go get the dog out of the yard and put her on a nice blanket in the workshop where sheíll be warm.

Then I go turn the water off.

I sleep the night away, get up, and make coffee. I get at least two or three sips into me before I put on my shoes and coat and go outside to turn the water back on.

When I checked The Weather Channel at 6 a.m. Thursday they claimed it was 23 degrees. I think they measure in Lafayette, so it was probably 26 or 27. Regardless, I was worried about how long it would take to warm up, so I turned the water back off before I left for work.

Itís an interesting thing when I turn the water on in the morning. All the faucets I left open sputter, spit, cough and hack. The air trapped in the line comes out like giant burps. Sometimes the water comes out ocher, which makes me certain again I desperately need to replumb.

Sometimes the pipes rattle when I turn on the water again. I like that sound, I even like all the blowing and huffing and puffing. Makes me feel like the old place still has some life in her, though sheís a bit arthritic.

Anyway, off to work, and I pass through the shop. The dog is ready to go out, to be certain. I open the door and she goes take care of her business. If I donít hurry up and close the door, sheíll get back in and an act of Congress wonít get her back out again. Finally I coax her to the yard, where she either snuggles up in her blankets under the house or finds a sunny spot in the yard. Itíll be warmer soon, so I know sheíll be fine.

I worry about bridges when itís that cold. Those "Bridge May Ice In Cold Weather" signs scare the bejeezus out of me, even in July. With the Charenton bridge to La. 87 impassable at the moment, I have to take the Baldwin bridge. I donít like bridges, in general. The Luling bridge makes me clench the steering wheel with white knuckles until I get over to the other side. I do not drive the Huey P. Long bridge. I avoid most bridges whenever I can.

The notion of ice on a bridge is just plain terrifying.

We donít really know much about driving in cold, icy weather down here. Itís second nature to those folks north of I-10. I remember when it snowed in the late 1980s. I was working at KFMV/KFRA when it came down.

After the required snowball fight in the station yard, I headed home, behind one of my cohorts. We made it without incident to the Charenton bridge. Up ahead of me, my bud touched his brakes and went right through the intersection without even slowing, the road was iced over. I just closed my eyes and prayed. Neither of us obeyed the stop sign, though we tried, but we both made it home alive.

What was it, year before last it snowed on Christmas Day? Probably the only white Christmas weíll ever see down here, anyway. Most of our Christmases are brown, owing to sugar cane season and all.

You folks who have been reading this dribble since I first came back to the Banner nearly 10 years ago will recall that I have been planning to insulate the floors of the house and the pipes since I first started whining and bellyaching about winter on these pages. Iím still planning. It takes time to get things right, you know. This year. I say it again: This year.

The cold has two vastly differing effects on Patches, my calico cat: She either curls into a tight, compact and warm ball and doesnít move for hours on end, or she runs like a lunatic from the top of the stairs, across the living room, through the kitchen and into her room, the storage room, in the back. The she runs back the same path to the top of the stairs and repeats the whole procedure again. Canít figure it out. She eventually gets tuckered out and I can at least hear the television again.

Thursday night, I was torn. The weather forecast was for 32 degrees. Well, 32 isnít that cold, but in this old house I didnít want to take any chances.

"It takes a hard freeze for a day or two to bust pipes," they tell me.

"Not in this house, bub," I reply. "My pipes are so old and arthritic they bust in summer."

So I carried myself outside at bedtime, turned off the water, and went to sleep. In the morning, I put on my shoes and coat, and went turn it back on. Only after my shower did I turn on the computer and check the weather to find that it was 37 degrees at 6:20 a.m., which meant it didnít freeze at all.

Man, I canít wait for spring.