Sunday, December 18, 2016

Winter Snapshots

The Olde Vermonter (left) and Your Humble Scribe. Back in the day.
Winter, for me, means Christmas, sledding, skiing, skating, shoveling (grrrrr), hot chocolate, traveling to see friends and family, church services by candlelight, and memories of my childhood.

At the age of 63, I don't do any sledding, skiing, or skating anymore. I try to avoid the shoveling as well. I feel that sharing the fruits (cash) of my labors with others for to make my driveway clean is the least I can do for the economy.

"Get a snowblower," my friends said, "it's so much easier than shoveling," they said. When I pointed out to them that arising in the morning to go to work, and seeing a new coating of the white stuff upon the ground (and my driveway) would still require me to clean the driveway first, snowblower or not, but having someone paid to do that would let me savor that morning coffee a bit longer, they sort of understood.

I don't believe walking behind a snowblower makes one more of a man, in that sense, I have paid my dues. Don't care to do that anymore. Cast aspersions if ye will, I care not.

Late winter / early spring back in the day at the sugar house.
From left to right, Yours Truly, The Olde Vermonter, my Grampa Ray, my Dad.
Cavorting to the right are my grandparents' dogs, Bimmie and Tippy (of whom only his tail and butt are visible).
Some folks are not big fans of winter in the northern states. Yes, it can be miserable, cold, wet, icy, and (dare I repeat myself) miserable. True, it can be all those things. It can also be deadly. Cars sliding on ice, bitter cold windchill, if one is not careful, one could wind up very dead. Frostbite is no picnic, don't ask me how I know.

However, I enjoy winter up here. I learned early how to dress for it (think layers) and when to stay inside. Knowing when not to go out is important. I remember a few winters ago when at work I looked outside to see that the snow was falling fast, thick, and furious. Lots of blowing snow was making visibility outside a pretty iffy proposition. I made the command decision to call it a day.

It took an hour to go the ten miles to get home, with very few other people on the road. Seems like the authorities were waiting for it to stop snowing before sending the plows out. Typical of a locale where excessive amounts of snow are a rarity. Little Rhody gets snow, sometimes lots of it, but not enough so that people get used to dealing with it.

Anyhoo, the next day when I returned to work I discovered that some company big shot had made the call to send everyone home about three hours after I left the building. That call was no doubt based on the cost to pay everyone for not working, and two hours overhead per warm body costs less than five. Bottom line is that many of those folks spent upwards of four hours trying to get home. Traffic was snarled, the snow was still falling and now the plows were out trying to clear the roads.

I watched it all from the comfort of Chez Sarge, I judged it five hours of PTO well spent.

I remember snippets of winter when I watch it snow (which it did again Saturday morning, though it turned to rain later), some good, some not so much. Here (after the photo) are a few.

17 December 2016, waiting for an oil change. No, I don't do that myself either.
- A cold winter's day, we'd been invited to a sledding party, I think I was in my early teens. The parents of the kid who had the party had pretty much blocked off an entire country road for us to go sledding on. As it was almost a private drive, the State didn't see a need to plow it, we had the whole thing to ourselves. It was an awesome day, even though it was bitter cold, but we were Vermonters, it's supposed to be cold in winter. At the end of the day, we all trudged back up the hill in the semi-dark where the kid's Mom had hot chocolate ready for us all. With little marshmallows, oh my word that hit the spot.

- Waking up one morning to hear a blizzard howling outside, being informed by our parents that school was canceled. Yay! Being informed by Dad that would we hurry up with breakfast as the driveway wasn't going to shovel itself. Boo! Then seeing that the driveway was invisible between the two six-foot banks that border it. We felt like we'd just been ordered to shovel Alaska. Yeah, yeah, Dad did most of the work, we kids had a snowball fight.

- Deciding to drive to northern Vermont from southern Vermont in a howling snowstorm, why is immaterial but I can assure it that it involved a girl and seemed important at the time. I think that was the day I learned what "futile" meant. My trusty Volkswagen Beetle tackled the road with no problems at all. I never could figure out why all of the cars with Massachusetts plates were in such a hurry and why they decided to park in the woods further down the road. The tow truck drivers made a lot of money that day.

- Driving to Colorado from San Antonio on April 1st, 1987. It was warm and sunny in San Antone. Less warm when I got to northern New Mexico and not sunny at all. In fact it was snowing like crazy. I stopped for gas in Raton, New Mexico and when I stepped out of my nice warm VW I nearly froze. Popped the trunk and put on nearly every piece of clothing I had with me, gassed up and got onto I-25 north. Had the great good fortune of following a New Mexico state plow up to the top of Raton Pass and then picked up a Colorado state plow heading down the pass. I-25 in Colorado all the way to the Springs was more hockey rink than road, but slow and steady got me home.

- Leaving my apartment building in Denver during the Great Blizzard of Christmas of '82 to check for any last minute mail. Bear in mind that it was Christmas Eve, most of the roads had been closed and it was still snowing and the wind was howling in from the Plains like nobody's business. When I got ten yards from my building I was confronted with a drift well over my head. Deciding to abort the mission I turned to return to my warm cozy apartment. 'Twas then that I noticed that I couldn't actually see the building, ten yards away. Good thing my prints weren't filled in yet. (Though if I had just walked straight I would have run right into the side of the building.)

Oh yeah, The Missus Herself was nine months pregnant with The Nuke. Later that night she said, "It's time." "Time for what..." I started, then realized that my better half was indicating that the miracle of birth was about to happen. Again, back into the snow, which had stopped falling, yielding to a clear, cold night. I managed to forge a path to the nearest plowed road from which the local news media had assured the populace that in the event of an emergency, call the city and they would dispatch a four wheel drive vehicle to collect you.

Arriving back at the warm and cozy apartment, shivering and wet, I discovered The Missus Herself and The Naviguessor watching television. "False alarm." said the love of my life. The Nuke came into the world a week later. The girl has ever since had a great sense of timing.

- Once again, at work in the wilds of Massachusetts during the Great Exile of 2010-12, reports of a looming blizzard were spreading at work. Authorization to work from the home on Thursday (this being Wednesday) was given. As "home" was a hotel and I normally went home Thursday afternoon anyway, I departed the area forthwith, checked out of my hotel and made the drive south in blowing snow. Very few other people were on the interstate and most of them seemed to know their business. Waking up next day to a foot of fresh snow was wondrous indeed, knowing that I was home safe and had nowhere I had to be.

Nice.

Winter can be stressful, deadly, and miserable, but if you know how to deal with it, it ain't all that bad. Besides which, when spring finally arrives, you have a much better appreciation for the warming air, the budding trees, and the passing of the snow into memory. Until next time...

Yes, I like the four seasons.



20 comments:

  1. Driving in the snow. Technically, I did not drive in very deep snow to see a girl. Early in the snowfall my father had gone into work, and when there was much more snow than expected, he called and asked if I could come and get him. No problem, I owned a two wheel drive 1976 Datsun pickup truck, and all I had to do was add chains to the rear, and snow to the bed, and I could do this. I picked Dad up, showed him that sometimes driving on the correct side of the road, and stopping for traffic lights and stop signs was contrary to good inertia management and we got home safely. Come to think of it, I now wonder if I was wrong, and what I took as his exclamations of pride in my driving skills, were really exclamations of a quite different nature.
    And since I had the chains on, I might just as well drive over and visit this girl I was seeing. The girl is The Hot Chick From Philly and we have been married for more than 37 years.
    Snowthrowers. We bought the old thrower after a tough cycle of winter storms. The machine sat around for a long time, because the Philly area got no measurable snow accumulation for the next three years. For almost all of the time in this house we have lived between elderly neighbors, and the machine allows me to be a good neighbor without the endless shoveling. And besides, a large powerful machine that gathers up snow, and then hurls it with great accuracy to wherever I want is just cool. (boys and toys)

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    1. The gathering and heaving of snow with great accuracy is kinda cool.

      :)

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  2. Change 1976 Datsun to 1974. I bought it used in 1976 from a Senior Chief Electrician's Mate when I was stationed on Forrestal.

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    1. The military hand me down vehicle? We had those on Okinawa, I had a blue Datsun which I think had at least ten previous owners!

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    2. While at Kadena I had a tired old Civic with numerous previous owners. It was stolen just before I PCS'd to Offutt and I just wrote it off. Some months later while TDY at Mildenhall, a letter was forwarded to me from someone in Okinawa who had been caught for that theft. He explained that the judge required him to express his great regret for his crime and how he would be sending me payments to compensate for my loss. As I came to understand Japanese justice, one had to convince the judge of being truly sorry for committing a crime.

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  3. 78 on My Truck's thermometer yesterday afternoon. AccuHunch is calling it at 22 with a feels like of 6 degrees right now. You'd think it was December in Texas!

    I too am tend to reach for my wallet more nowadays to take care of chores that I once did. I just call it my little effort to reduce unemployment and redistribute wealth. Does that make me a democrat? Please, Lord, no!

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    1. The redistribution of your own wealth, by you, is okay, noblesse oblige and all that. It's only when you redistribute someone else's wealth that you become a Democrat. :)

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  4. Ah, winter and my youth. Tending livestock in a place that averages 30' of snow. For fun, clearing snow off roofs.

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    1. "Averages" 30' feet of snow?!?! That's where the six foot fir tree you're looking at is actually a 36-foot fir. Oh dear.

      I've shoveled off a roof or two in my time. Not really for fun but I think you knew that.

      :)

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    2. Total snowfall. It compacts into three feet of hardpack. Winters are judged by the number of wires covered in barb wire fences. A bad winter is one where the fence posts are covered.

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  5. Love Winter, as long as I don't have to drive through a storm...staying home is good. People I know with snow blowers spend half the day getting the damn thing started and working properly because they don't get used often enough most winters.

    I would like to suggest that Winter starts promptly December 24th and immediately turn to Spring Feb 15th...it is currently too long.

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  6. My first foray into Montana was to support our company's radio communications. I got up on a mountain top, looked at the comm shelter and it had a second floor. Once inside, I saw it was a little room with an outside door and a ladder down to the main room. I asked about it, and they have to shovel DOWN to get to the door in winter. Showed me a picture of a smooth snow pack, with a hole to the top floor. I believe the 6 foot tree illustration.

    Thank God I live in Texas, where I get all four seasons in a week, then it's summer again. My blood is too thick to deal with a long winter.

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    1. All four seasons in a week, yup, I've heard that.

      I like my seasons spread out, but I get that.

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  7. I noticed "Steve Canyon" stenciled on the helmets. Wonder how many whippersnappers remember Steve Canyon?

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    1. Yeah. Steve Canyon was around when Dick Tracy wore his high tech, highly improbable two-way wrist radio!

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    2. And traveling to the moon in that elongated tin can. I loved that stuff!

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)