Tuesday, January 27, 2009
With all the ice and snow in the forecast this week, I've been reminiscing about how winter weather used to affect my family when I was growing up. We lived on some rural acreage, at the top of a hill with a poured asphalt driveway going up at about a 30-40 percent slope. It's not just my hyperbolic memory talking, folks -- this was one steep driveway. (Sprinting up to the top constituted the final highlight of any bike excursion.)
Whenever frozen precipitation threatened, we'd leave a vehicle at the bottom of the driveway overnight. Coming down that narrow passage would be suicide in slippery conditions -- a rocky bank going up to the left, brush leading straight down to our pond on the right, and a 90-degree turn at the bottom which, if not negotiated, would lead to a plunge off the earthen dam that kept the pond filled. So on mornings when snow or ice had covered the driveway, we all had to tramp carefully down to the car at the bottom in order to go anywhere.
For a winter event of any duration, Dad attached a scraper blade to his little Kubota tractor and plowed the driveway. The deep treads of the tractor tires made distinctive and wonderful tracks in the snow. Once the driveway was scraped, it was a lot easier to walk down to the car at the driveway's end -- but no less dangerous to drive up and down.
If the power went out -- as it sometimes did for many days at a time -- we ended up huddled in the living room by our wood stove. Closing off the rest of the house, that room stayed fairly cozy as the stove pumped out the heat. You could even heat up food on it, after a fashion. When it came time for bed, we hurried from the warm living area to our frigid, abandoned bedrooms with candles lighting our way.
Any significant snow was greeted by Dad taking the camera out to capture some pristine photos before we kids messed it up. The best place to enjoy disturbing the virgin snow was our tennis court, with its smooth, even surface. Walking, running, and building snowmen there satisfied the irresistible siren song of snow -- to make one's mark where no one else has trod.
Here at our house, it looks as if we've dodged the worst ice accumulations, the prospect of which had me stockpiling candles and matches last night. Tomorrow the kids might wake up to a little snow and no school, and then on Thursday the forecast high is nearly 50 degrees -- it will all be over. I hope I never have to rough it as much with my kids as we used to back when I was a teenager, but those winter storms have left me with nothing but good memories.