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Michael Perry: A carefully prepared winter driving survival kit

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Now that the winter driving season is nearly upon us (Oops! he said, while shoveling a path to the pole barn in search of starter fluid and tire chains), I have begun assembling my Winter Survival Car Kit, and you should too. Here in the Badger State, the relevant instructions are available online courtesy of the ReadyWisconsin division of the Wisconsin Emergency Management team, which in turn is acting under the auspices of the US Homeland Security Department, so we are not kidding around here.

I have availed myself of the ReadyWisconsin information and recommend you do so as well, especially if your car starts on the third try and only if you really pump it. That said, I am a bit of a detail guy, and as such, felt the need to tailor the government recommendations to better meet the specific needs of just us folks. Thus I present the Official Winter Survival Car Kit, Snow Boots on the Ground Cheesehead Edition:

Shovel. (Also, a teenager to run it.)

Windshield scraper. (Otherwise known as Farm & Fleet credit card.) (In a pinch, half a busted plastic Culver’s custard spoon will do.)

Water. (Bonus: Available from now through mid-April in non-spill form.)

Snack food including energy bars, raisins, and mini candy bars. (The second-grader is still wondering what happened to her plastic Halloween pumpkin.)

Matches and small candles. (I prefer a simple vanilla-scented votive, although a nice solid double-wicked tropical citrus bamboo pillar really sets the mood as you sit in the snowbank awaiting the tow truck.)

First aid kit with pocket knife. (Plus backup first aid kit to treat yourself after slicing your thumb with the pocket knife while using it to pry open the original first aid kit.)

Booster cables. (Or, if you’re from Chippewa County, jumper cables.)

Fluorescent distress flag (deer hunting cap with earflaps) and whistle (two fingers).

Cell phone adapter to plug into lighter. (Store separately from teenage snow shovel operator.)

Tow chain or rope.

Spare bumper, for after you use the tow chain or rope.

Kitty litter for traction.

Spare scarf (to jam in your mouth to keep all the swear words inside after rediscovering THAT @% KITTY LITTER THING NEVER &@$% WORKS!).

Necessary medications (Ironically, the medications you will crave most strongly as you face the freeze are stored in containers that cannot be legally opened in the car.) (Thus we have ice fishing shacks.)

Battery powered flashlight with batteries reversed to avoid accidental drain.

Battery powered flashlight with batteries in right so you have one to use after you fling the first flashlight deep into the dark because it wouldn’t work after you forgot the batteries were in there backward.

Duct tape. (To secure re-inserted swear-scarf after that whole flashlight interlude.)

For additional items and instruction (as if I missed anything), I again commend you to the ReadyWisconsin website. Unlike some wiseacres, they are dedicated to public safety and not afflicted with a case of terminal smarty-pants.

Be careful out there. Should you become stranded in the snow, activate your emergency flashers, call for help on your cellphone, and stay in the vehicle.

If you must leave your vehicle, use your cellphone to post it on Craigslist first so as to save on towing.

An original “Roughneck Grace” column exclusive to the Wisconsin State Journal. Read more from bestselling author and amateur farmer Michael Perry at

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