Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 12.05.11
Stanstead, Quebec


By the splitting of my thumb, something wintery this way comes

Here's a prediction: Winter is coming.

Yes, yes, that's stating the obvious, right? Saying that winter is coming is like saying the sky is blue or that the Harper Conservatives are institutionalizing voter cynicism.

But I can reliably assert that winter is nigh because my body is telling me so. To be specific, my thumb is splitting.

I know what you're thinking: "Gross." You're also probably thinking: "If he's going to write about gaping wounds, I'm seeing what Garfield's up to." You might even be thinking, "Nigh? Who says 'nigh' anymore?" But I'm pretty sure you're also thinking, "How can a split thumb predict the onset of winter?"

Well, I'll tell you (and, by the way, Garfield complains about getting out of bed today; you're not missing much). First of all, it's not so unusual. Think of all those clichés of oldtimers sitting around on their porches, muttering, "It's gonna rain; my corns are achin'." Such clichés must have a kernel of truth to them -- a corn kernel, if you will -- although, come to think of it, I can't for the life of me remember where or when I've actually heard anyone say that.

For that matter, do people still get corns? Has medicine eradicated this malady? Has science creamed corns?

And while we're at it, what about ring around the collar? This likewise seems to have been an affliction of a more innocent era, back when the greatest social embarrassment you could suffer was having a complete stranger approach you and say, "You've got ring around the collar." Not like today, when strangers come up to you and say, "You've got Type 2 diabetes," and then they legislate away your trans fats. So you Taser them.

But back to my thumb.

Every winter, as the cold, dry air settles in, a small crack will appear on my right thumb starting at the thumbnail and heading north about a quarter inch. It will remain there, an ugly blight, for the duration of the winter, not unlike the all-season tires I left in the driveway instead of putting them in the garage where they belong.

No amount of lotion, ointment, emollient, balm, salve, cream, or Poly-Fila will heal this small wound, not until the warm weather returns in spring.

Do I enjoy being a human barometer? Do I get a kick out of being compared to the Old Farmers' Almanac -- lightweight, highly unreliable, mostly yellow, and frequently found in the bathroom? I do not.

I do not like it because it hurts like a son of a digit.

You wouldn't think that one small chronic cut on the thumb would be so debilitating. Certainly my wife doesn't think so. She doesn't call it "debilitating"; she calls it "don't be such a baby."

But when your hands are already sensitive from the icy cold (winter prediction proven!) and you jam said thumb into a door jamb or even a jar of jam or possibly your close friend Jan, that really stings.

Buttons become the enemy.

Shoelaces become nasty.

Writing becomes increasingly rambling and inconsequential -- although that has nothing to do with my bum thumb.

There's also the very idea of a split thumb. A man's hands should be tough, gnarled, weathered. It should have callouses, corns even, not some minor blemish that could probably be managed with regular manicures.

It's also a reminder of the many ways my body is letting me down as I get older. If my thumb can split like that, I'm mildly worried that the increasingly severe lines on my forehead will one day simply crack open.

Ultimately, though, it's somewhat disappointing that the best party trick my body has is predicting the imminent onset of winter.

Now, if my elbow could predict lottery numbers, then we'd be talking!

Ross Murray's collection, You're Not Going to Eat That, Are You?, is available in Quebec in area book stores and through He can be reached at