There was a young man of this town
Who was buried in snow to his frown.
When asked, “Are you friz?”
He replied, “’Course I is
“But we don’t call this cold, in this town.”
Yes, we are hardy folk. Winter’s icy blasts are nothing new to us. Those who stay here right through the winter see friends and neighbors leave for Florida and California and Texas. Well, we are made of sterner stuff, right? (Never mind that given the chance, we’d head for warmer climes.)
Recently a friend e-mailed to inquire whether I was keeping warm. I assured him that I was not. I sent him a litany of my cold weather woes, including the frozen pipes (but hey, the faucets don’t drip!). After I declared that I was about to find an underground woodchuck den and hibernate with its residents, he realized I was really feeling the effects of the cold and it was affecting my brain. He was for bringing his quartz heater over immediately.
Some of us remember when we laughed off the cold. We were like my neighbor’s kids, frolicking in the snow. Slipping on the ice and falling was part of the fun, and funny enough to do again on purpose.
A reader of a certain age wrote to share recollections of long ago winters.
“The winters we remember were the hard ones,” she said.
“I am sure there were mild winters too, but those don’t stand out when I think back.
“I have picture of us kids that different ones took. They liked to take pictures outdoors because indoors we had to use flash bulbs and special film. In the winter pictures you can see a lot of snow. It was pretty deep. There would be the snowmen we made. We made a lot of them. We also made snow forts, and had these big snowball battles. If one side ran out of snowballs and the other side had some left they would come to your fort and use all their snowballs on you.
“Another thing they would do is take you down in the snow and wash your face with snow. They would put snow down your neck.
“We did a lot of this at school. I don’t think kids do this at school now. Maybe they would get in trouble for bullying.”
I remember some of those kinds of snow play, and “hard” winters when fence posts disappeared from the landscape until there was a general thaw, and where the creeks could not be seen.
“Riding down hill” was a favorite activity. This involved sleds and toboggans. Some people called it sledding. This would be done on our farm. The hill behind the house was the right place because the other hills had too much barbwire. This sport was indulged in by us two girls whenever there was enough snow. If there was crust on the snow that made it more challenging.
Sometimes the neighbor kids or one cousin or another brought sleds. There would be sledding at noon hour at school, where there was a steep, fairly clear hill behind the school. That hillside continued past my grandparents’ place.
We learned the consequences of not stopping the sled ride before reaching the road. We could encounter a fence there, or we could go airborne into the road.
Some country roads were not cleared after heavy snow until the township could borrow a grader. We might have to hike a quarter of a mile to where the truck had to be left. Milk had to be hauled out on a “stone boat.”
My correspondent did not mention the “chicken feather” smell of wet woolen coats and “snow pants” that would be hung to dry beside the stove—at school and at home. Perhaps she remembers when Neighbor Harry would come down to school to give us a ride up the valley, using his team and a sleigh. The harness had large, loud jingle bells on it. Perhaps some part of the harness was used when we needed the sound effect in some little PTA-sponsored play or concert.
One of our childhood sleds, a small Flexible Flyer type, is here, and a few years back it came in handy pulling groceries from the car to the house. I have not seen any kids riding down hill since years ago, except when the neighbor kids used the plowed snow banks at the PC parking lot, off Benton, as hillsides a year or two back. Now that lot is closed.
We still like singing “Jingle Bells,” and reminisce about when the Square was flooded and dozens of kids and grownups would go down there to skate. No one-horse open sleighs, now, no skating parties., not many snow fences around. Few yards are populated by snow people. There has not been an outbreak of snow warfare, complete with forts and ammo (hardened by a application of water) for decades.
But people still ask, “Cold enough for you?” And some of us insist that we don’t call this cold, in this town.