Here, as elsewhere throughout the Southeast and up the Atlantic coast, snow, ice, and below-freezing temperatures have been the norm recently. I’m too old and slow to get out and play in the stuff like I used to do as a kid, but looking out the window brings back a flood of memories!
As soon as it was light enough and we had eaten breakfast (a cathead biscuit filled with a scrambled egg and a sausage patty or a couple of slices of bacon, what I called an “egg pocket”), we bundled up for cold-weather play. We pulled blue jeans over our flannel pajamas, slipped into two or three pairs of socks, donned a flannel shirt and a sweatshirt (or two) topped by our heaviest winter play coat. For a while, I recall, I had a pair of big, black rubber galoshes that I pulled on over my low-top Converse sneakers (which barely fit because of the number of socks I wore). Later, when I had outgrown the galoshes, I had some leather work boots. Because they weren’t waterproof, I put freezer bags over my feet before putting on the boots. (Hey, my object was not to make a fashion statement but rather to keep my feet dry so I could stay out playing in the snow longer!)
And play we did! We worked half the morning to develop an efficient sledding track down the hillside of Walter Coomer’s cow pasture. We had a huge doughnut-shaped inner tube that we used to compact the snow, and that made the track wide and slick. Only after we completed that task would we try the runner sleds. It was a long walk to the top of that hill, but that made for a really long, fun trip back down! We sometimes piled four or five people on the “Tuber,” which was nearly impossible to steer, except by dragging one’s toes (which would ruin the track), and after hitting a few frozen cow piles en route to the bottom, we usually arrived with several fewer people than we’d started with.
We sometimes moved to my grandfather’s cow pasture to try greater challenges. One hill was much steeper (but shorter) than Mr. Coomer’s pasture, and it had several drop-offs, little places where it had eroded, making little “cliffs.” Sledding down that was a real thrill, but it was short-lived. One had to make sure he rolled off the tube or sled before he got to the bottom because two big trees were down there to greet him if he was a little slow in bailing out. One time, Bill and Paul Freshour, our neighbors, decided to make it even more of an adrenaline pumper, nailing the plywood bow deck from an old motorboat to their sled. Every time they went over one of the drop-offs, they sailed rather than sledded!
Several dozen yards to the right of that pasture was an even steeper but somewhat longer hill with some smaller drop-offs. That hill was an even greater challenge because at the bottom of it was a barbed-wire fence! Timing one’s roll off the sled was absolutely critical! I ripped several holes in my coat when I misjudged my roll-off and snagged it on the lower strand of the barbed wire. Maybe that’s why I started the practice of wearing an old World War II helmet liner that my brother and I had gotten somewhere and spray painted silver.
We played outside until lunchtime, and Mother often had to call us inside even then. That gave us time not only for nourishment but also for our clothes to dry out a bit. We would lay the boots, socks, gloves, etc., on the hearth in front of the fire or on the open door of the oven. As soon as the last bite was in our mouths, however, we were donning the warm but still-wet gear and making a mad dash back out into the snow. We often stayed outside until nearly dark. (A few times, especially if the moon was bright, we stayed out even after dark. Avoiding collisions with trees, timing roll-offs, etc., was really fun then!) Sometimes our hands and fingers, though covered with several pairs of gloves and mittens, were so cold that we couldn’t snap our fingers when we finally got inside to warm.
Yeah, all those memories came flooding back when my daughter Elissa send photos of my granddaughter Regan looking longingly out the window the first morning it had snowed at their house. It was only the second snow of Regan’s life, but she remembered her first experience vividly and wanted to repeat it. Then Elissa sent another photo of Regan (later another of her and her sister Morgan) on the sled. What memories those photos engendered!
Playing in the snow never gets old. But it made me sort of sad that I couldn’t get out and play in the fluffy white stuff again myself!
Copyright (c) 2018, Dennis L. Peterson