The bright sunshine that shone early this morning has given way to gray skies and the first scattered snowflakes. The air is bitter cold, and man and beast alike seem to have retreated to a warmer place. This is the first genuine winter weather to hit our hills, and it makes us long for spring.
The mild weather so far has spoiled us to the place where a blast of arctic air and the accompanying snowflakes are almost more than we older folks can bear. The older I get, the more I dread wintertime weather. Gone are the days when I exulted in the snow "piled wide and deep" -- although to be perfectly honest, they really don't make winters like they used to!
Why, when I was a kid-and don't you just love the pained expressions that begin drifting across your children's faces when you begin a sentence with "when I was a kid?" But really, the winters were colder, and I'm sure the snows were more frequent and much deeper.
Of course, they were worse when my daddy was a boy, and you really should have seen them when Grandpa was a lad! It makes me wonder what kind of tales our grandchildren will tell the next generation.
I do remember one winter when we had such a deep snow that there was no school for two weeks. I was in grade school at the time, and Mom got cabin fever so bad she was ready to kill all of us. With seven kids underfoot, who could blame her? Of course we didn't have snow removal equipment as we do now, and the road here was a dirt road.
We didn't have the warm outerwear that children wear now, or tall waterproof boots to wade through deep snow. We girls wore galoshes that snapped over our shoes, and snow would make its way down the top of the rubber boots and leave a chapped ring around our legs. Do you remember the Cloverine salve that our mothers rubbed on our legs? I can smell that warm clover scent yet.
I can still remember the excitement we felt when a deep snow began to fall. Dragging out sleighs with steel runners, bulky homemade sleds that were almost too heavy to pull, or pieces of linoleum, we headed for the nearest hill. The cold didn't seem to bother us much; we'd wipe a grimy coat sleeve across a runny nose and take another trip down the hill.
We kept our hats, toboggans, mittens and gloves in a cardboard box for wintertime use, and when we couldn't find enough mittens, we would wear old socks on our hands. Sliding down the hill on snowy wings, the frosty air would redden our cheeks and noses.
Oh, those snowball fights! We sometimes organized teams (with neighbor kids) and staged a battle that lasted half a day. Ice balls (snowballs soaked in water and frozen) were outlawed as well as snowballs embedded with foreign objects-rocks, etc. It was a great joke to stuff a snowball down the back of another person's coat and run-fast.
The boys often got too rough and we girls would wander off to make snow angels. We would find a patch of untouched snow, lie down carefully, and move our arms up and down to create wings. When the snow was the right texture to pack easily, we made gigantic snowmen. Often we would roll the snow into such huge balls that it took three or four of us to lift it.
We would play until our hands and feet were almost frostbitten, and our clothes were soggy. How welcome was the call when Mom rounded us up for dinner! (Poor Mom!) I can see the pile of wet boots, coats, scarves, mittens and socks piled up in front of the gas stove. Remember that peculiar wet, steamy smell that arose from our wet garments as they dried out if front of the stove?
There was nothing as good as that big kettle of vegetable soup and batter bread, or the pot of brown beans and corn bread. We could eat anything -- and did. Often we were joined by Coda, James Roy and Denny. As soon as we thawed out, we were ready to go again. Evening would bring creeping cold again, freezing the puddles into ice and chilling our bones.
We still had our evening chores to do -- buckets of water to carry from the hand pump, chickens to feed and shut up for the night. There would be a delicious tiredness in our bodies as we said our prayers and crawled into bed. I like to think about this as I sit in my nice warm house. I don't want to get out and do it.
J. D. Beam of California asked about cracklin' corn bread. That is another old time food that has gone by the wayside. We still butcher, but we don't render lard and meat skins as Mom used to do. Yes, I remember the meat skins and cracklin's that was a by-product of the lard. A few tablespoons of cracklin's in a skillet of corn bread made childhood memories.
My friend, Adda Leah Davis, of Virginia sent a poem that she composed, and I want to share it.
God is my shelter and relief
When life's mountains are high and its rivers deep
But I fearfully climb then swim the tides
To that sacred place where the Spirit abides.
When my days are sad and my faith is weak
Still I struggle and strive to seek
That place of rest and peace of mind
Which God, my Father must define.