2014.01.08 Facing winter one boot short


While waiting for the blizzard to settle in, I've been thinking about snows of the past. At this point, I'm still not convinced we will have all of what everybody is talking about. It's 9:30 Sunday morning and we've probably had an inch and a half. Feel free to point out my skepticism when you see me struggling with my snow shovel later.

I've been trying to bring to mind my earliest memory of snow, but I’m only making it back to first or second grade. That's when we had an ice storm that fell over the snow and I remember crunching across the front yard of our Cawley Road house, breaking through the crust with each step. 

There's a dose of fear attached to this memory. It must have been a pretty thick ice covering because I also remember the warnings from my mother to stay away from any wires on the ground to avoid electrocution—and there were some wires down in the neighborhood.

After that my memory jumps to probably fifth or sixth grade when the Bryner boys and I were searching for new sledding territory. Living on the former lakebed of ancient Lake Erie doesn't leave a lot of hills. We must have tired of the crowd at Morenci's traditional "public" sledding hill at the end of Orchard Street and we ventured across the way to the hill we could see off Bank Street. 

It was steep and fast, but a little risky with all the trees. It took some good aim for this course, because none of us was ever very good at steering those sleds.

Somebody found an old livestock watering tank at the bottom of the hill. We dragged it to the top and mounted it on my Western Flyer sled since mine was the longest. We all climbed inside and pushed off. I recall having fleeting thoughts such as "I wonder what's going to happen here?" and "Is this really a smart thing to do?"

Fleeting thoughts because the answer to the first question came rather quickly: The tank will fall off the sled and roll away and roll over at least one of the passengers as they tumble down the hill. The second question: Probably not, but no one was seriously injured.

Most likely it was that same Winter of Stupidity that at least one of us broke through thin ice on Bean Creek and walked home with one or two very cold, very wet feet. It was always annoying when something like that happened. We're having a good time and all of sudden one of us has to get home quickly. The fun ends.

I remember another time when the fun ended. It happened when one of us lost a boot at Wakefield Park. I don't suppose the typical kids boot of the 1950s is even sold today. They fit right over your shoes—all black rubber with neat little metal buckles.

Here's how it happened. We decided that it was fun to stand at the back of the city dump truck when it unloaded snow at the park. We wouldn't get too close or we would be buried in an avalanche, but the trick was to work your way up a little closer each time the truck arrived with a new load.

Finally, it happened. I was a little too close and when Fred Mohr tripped the dump box, I got buried about up to my waist. It was just like in the movies when someone got in the way of the snow coming down the mountain. I finally broke free, but I was minus one boot.

I think we dug down and found it after Fred chewed us out, but I suppose it's possible I walked home in my sock.

I missed the Big Blizzard of 1978 because I was living in Oregon and it wasn't until I returned to Morenci the next year that I discovered cross country skiing. I quickly learned how that changes a person's attitude about winter completely. Snow is good; more is better.

My wife reminds me every winter that we rarely put on skis anymore. We have winters now that don't offer much in the way of skiing, and when it does snow, it seems like it's generally during my really busy part of the week. Then there's that other rule: After it snows, the temperature becomes unbearably cold and windy, and with this storm today it will soon go to the extremes—the coldest in a long time.

Even though I'm not standing on skis, the attitude seems to have lingered. It's winter and snow is good.