Standing a lonely guard against a warming climate

TOWNSHEND — It happens every year.

They start out in the fall, leaving the Canadian arctic, heading south. They trudge across miles of frozen forest, wade through icy streams, and climb barbed wire fences.

They have to cross the border illegally, because governments don't issue passports. Some of them get busted and melt in overheated holding cells waiting for lawyers who never show up.

Once they make it into the United States, the problems of snowmen have only begun. They have to travel at night to avoid detection. Some of them get run over crossing highways and are reduced to piles of slush.

It's not easy being a snowman. There are no benefits, no retirement plan.

There is no union, no health insurance. They get peed on by dogs, picked on by kids.

It doesn't seem to faze them.

They are men of mystery, silent and fearless.

* * *

These days, snowmen face a threat far greater than labrador retrievers with full bladders. The winters are getting shorter. Warmer too.

This winter they have made it south for the winter. They stand in the snow wearing cast-off scarves, staring up at a cruel sun.

Once there were a lot of snowmen around, a standing army that occupied New England from late November to April. Now they are few and far between, standing a lonely guard against a warming climate.

Someday, snowmen may join the ranks of other extinct creatures like the dodo bird.

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