Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Feb. 5, 2004

Snow foolin'

Winter storms - the kind with blowing snow, icy streets and below-zero wind chills - always bring out the "when I was young" stories. And what those stories all share is a sense of how we overcame difficulties.

One of my favorites happened when I was a senior in high school. A winter storm cancelled classes for three days. In our yard, the snow was up to the seats on the swing set and drifts had closed the road to our farm. Although we had plenty of food, Dad had run out of cigarettes. Much to Mom's chagrin, Dad decided to walk to the store to buy some Pall Malls. My sister and I, eager for an adventure, thought it would be fun to join him. So the three of us bundled up and took off across the neighbor's field.

A hard crust had formed across the snow in most places so we made pretty good progress until we hit a spot where we sank to our hips. We eventually made it to town and back, but we were sore for days after the effort.

When I was in graduate school, my husband and I, trying to be as frugal as possible on our limited budget, walked everywhere to keep from spending money on gasoline. One terribly frosty day, I walked to campus from our apartment. It wasn't too bad going, but on the return trip walking north, I thought I'd freeze in place. By the time I arrived home, I couldn't feel my fingers, toes, or face. When I began to thaw out, my extremities first tingled and then began to hurt.

Art tells a story about the time he was returning to college with his wife, one-year old daughter and a friend. It was a snowy January evening and unusually cold even for Wisconsin. The heater on their 1948 Ford put out only enough heat to keep the lower half of the windshield clear, making it necessary for everyone inside to remain bundled up.

They hit a slick spot and suddenly the car began to spin. After three turns, it came to rest in the ditch pointing in the direction they had come.

Art and the friend got out and began walking back in the deep snow of the ditch toward a gas station they had just passed. But when the driver of an approaching car saw them, he swerved and soon began spiraling too, coming to rest in the same ditch.

When they finally reached the station, they discovered the other driver had hitched a ride, arriving at the station before them. The tow truck was already on its way.

The truck had room for only one inside, so Art and the friend rode in the back next to the crane.

After the truck operator pulled the other car out, the driver paid the man $20. Then he pulled Art's vehicle out and only took $4. He explained that his boss would never know there was another car, so that extra money would go right into his pocket.

Now that I'm older, I prefer winter the best from inside my cozy home. I can wax poetic about the ice-encased branches and berries, the tall prairie grasses shimmering in the sun like crystal and the snow piled up like so much whipped cream in the fields.

When I do have to get out, I appreciate city and county crews who sand and salt our roads, weather and news people who keep us safe and informed, emergency personnel who take care of us, and grocery and hardware store workers who sell food to stock our pantries and snow shovels to dig us out.

But, given the chance when warned by meteorologists, I'll stay home. What all those stories of long ago and so many like them share in common is they all involved a risk that turned out well. Somehow those adventures of yesteryear now seem more foolish than fun.

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