Challenges travel in packs, and this winter is no exception.

No sooner had our second generational snowstorm in four years ransacked an otherwise placid winter, than one of the dogs ripped open his shoulder in an accident and needed medical attention. Twenty or so sutures later, a leak opened up in the master bedroom in the same place we had a leak in the winter of '17, which required some late night alpinist adventures on the north face of a precipitous peak, and will require a second replacement of the bedroom ceiling in as many years.

One survival trick, when stalked by challenges in the March of our discontent, is simply to take a deep breath, which I accomplish to some degree by studying the Winter Counts. Winter Counts were kept by many of the plains tribes - Mandan, Pawnee, Lakota, Dakota - usually on hides (but sometimes muslin or paper) painted with pictographs. This was a mnemonic practice: the pictographs recorded one or more significant events of the year that spurred the memory and gave people things to remember and talk about during those long, dark winters on the plains.

Lone Dog's winter count - he was a Yanktonai - covers roughly the years 1800 to 1870, and gives us a brief peek into a life we would not otherwise enjoy and, if nothing else, fires the imagination long enough to draw me happily away from our series of annoying first-world complaints:

1825 - A great flood on the Missouri River. Many people were drowned.

1832 - A white man killed another white man.

1833 - The stars fell out of the sky. The people were much afraid.

1837 - Big smallpox.

But even with the fascinating winter counts looking back at me from the pages of a book, I can admit to some cabin fever this time of year. That's likely because there are much bigger storms stacked up in the atmosphere - and try as I might I can't see them altering course any time soon.

1841 - Feather in the Ear stole thirty spotted ponies from the Crows.

I've skipped the Cohen Testimony turbulence because I've lost interest in almost anything that happens east of the Ohio River. I've essentially "gone to the mattresses" where politics are concerned because there isn't anyone who works out there, in that howling integrity wilderness, that I would trust as far as I can throw my barn.

Maybe you trust them - and I praise those who keep the faith - but from our lodge, Washington looks like a tired Broadway anachronism and once respectable and reliable news organizations look no better than the aggressive and often salacious paparazzi hired by People Magazine.

1852 - The Nez Perce came to Lone Horn's lodge at midnight and were not killed. They were lost and cold.

Still, in America we have it better than most, even if the valorization of all things victimhood too often confuses real issues and obfuscates the truth. Sadly, when that game is played well it can be lucrative - and so was apparently too much for television actor Jussie Smollett, who succumbed to temptation and ruined himself while trying to cash in on hate-memes.

1851 - A buffalo cow was killed and she had an old woman in her belly.

Smollett earned some decent jail-time and should probably seek help from a mental-health professional, but I still haven't heard enough praise for the oft-maligned Chicago PD, who taught the world a lesson in restraint while brilliantly navigating the reactionary media minefield.

1861 - The buffalo were so plenty the tracks came up close to the tipis.

It's likely that there isn't a cop alive - since cops deal with liars for a living - who didn't wince when the Smollett story broke because the narrative was hinky from the outset. For those assigned to the investigation it was probably infuriating. But Smollett, like many folks, apparently assumed that cops are stupid and that somehow his rigorous listing of every conceivable bigotry bogeyman made for a convincing tale of woe. It never did, but there is a strain of modern activists who rarely, if ever, examine their own biases before putting them out on display.

1865 - Many horses died because there was no grass.

There was another storm in Vietnam last week involving the President and a dictator, but I'm not sure what actually happened. That's partially because every time I catch an image of John Bolton I instantly hear Jello Biafra singing "Holiday in Cambodia," leaving me too startled to figure out what was actually accomplished in Hanoi. Not that the effort was wasted - why not try to get the homicidal fat kid to give up his nukes? - but it's also true that deep snow would serve as a more convincing image of tranquility if people would learn how to drive in it.

1867 - Many flags given by the peace commission.

Turning the page, I found a pictograph that might serve for our own winter count. It is an image meant to represent heavy snowfall to its contemporaries, but which to the modern eye looks like three balloons, trailing their strings, rising into the sky on a breeze. This is a valuable image against our occasionally real, and occasionally manufactured, despairs. Plus, on the national level, balloons are an appropriate symbol for the nonstop clown show put on by our alleged representatives in government.