The nuts in the snow at East Potomac Golf Course yesterday hadn't fallen off those old oak trees.
Five of them, trudging across the tundra of F course, were golfers.
"We are gathered together here today," said Greg Henn solemnly, as he searched for his ball in a knee-deep snow drift, "because we are absolutely out of our minds."
Many scientists have speculated that the oddest sight to be found in nature is the lemming, an animal that cannot swim, throwing itself into the sea.
They may be wrong.
"Thought I'd seen it all," said Jack Rogers, East Potomac manager.
"These guys phoned this morning and asked, 'Is the course playable"
"I told 'em, 'Hell, no. It's two-thirds under snow and almost waist-deep in some gullies.'
"That's great," answered The Five-some. "We'll be right out.'" East Potomac is one of the few courses in this part of the country that stays open every day of the winter. But even Rogers never expected to see Henn, Joe Bernier, Leo Bielecki, Clarence Woollum and Hal Lanis show up on his doorstep yesterday.
"We sholved off a couple of practice tees so they could hit a bucket of balls," said the incredulous Rogers. "Seemed like the least we could do."
Even the forzen fivesome, most of whose members play every day that they can see the greens, were surprised yesterday.
"Our rule of thumb," said Lanis, "is that we play any day when more than half the ground is visible. I think we broke that rule today."
The hardships of snow golf are endless: bulky clothes, thick gloves, watering eyes, frozen faces, numb feet and lost balls.
"We use old clunkers, but when they disappear in that snow, they're still gone forever," said Bernier, a 70-year-old retired Navy man. "I guess we ought to get some orange balls."
Despite the handicaps. The Fivesome got its pars, and even one birdie by Lanis to win a double-press bet worth 20 cents.
"Simple," explained Lanis, who plays accordion and piano professionally. "I hit a perfect drive, a perfect iron and a perfect putt. And I invoked ventional USGA Winter Rules?
How do Snow Rules differ from conventional USGA Winter Rules?
"Snow Rules are anything the other guys don't see."
For The Fivesome, these solitary days on which they frequently play 27 holes are more a form of leisurely fun than some hardy act of Yukon courage.
"If you take the game too seriously," said Bernier, "you can't play with us. We're out here for the air, the exercise and the comradeship.
"This is the most beautiful season for golf. We have the whole course to ourselves. It's quiet, white and deserted. Nobody's yelling at you to hurry up. Nobody's trying to run over you with a dern golf cart.
"I hate to see spring come."
Only one question bothers the Frigid Five.
"Don't ask 'How old are you?'" Bernier said. "We're not 'old' at all. Ask it the way the French do: What age are you? Quel age avez vous?"
"Then," Bernier smiled, "we'll admit to being in our 60s and 70s."
Only Henn doesn't fit into that category. He's 29, and nicknamed "Eyes."
"Greg's the only one who can see where our shots land," exaggerated Bernier. "We can still hit 'em, but we can't always see 'em."
"These are a great bunch of sly old dogs," said Henn, an insurance salesman playing on his lunch hour. "I met them last summer. About 16 of them played together then. I played college golf, but I always took the game too seriously. It was no fun, just a battle.
"These guys have taught me how to laugh at the game. And my handicap's down to four."
Despite their obvious friendship, the Five pretend to be desperate foes. "We can't pose for a group photo," explains Lanis. "If we got that close, everybody's hand would be reaching into everybody's else's wallet pocket."
East Potomac management became concerned about its lost patrol yesterday. Rogers sent out Charlie the Ranger in an electric cart to make sure that no one had been lost in an avalanche.
As the ranger chugged into view, Bernier, who has been retired for 20 years, was figuring out how to land a chip shot in the middle of a snowdrift next to a hole. "It'll stop dead for a gimmie," he figured.
"Any of you guys frozen and need help," asked Charlie.
The Fivesome just continued their task of using their putters like shovels to clear a path to the hole.
As friendly ranger tried to depart, his wheels spun deeper and deeper into the snow until he was totally stuck.
"Now that's a typical golf cart for you," said Bernier gleefully. "Well, let's go push the poor guy out. Then we can play nine more holes."
And they did.