Saturday, December 9, 2017

It's Coming...

Winter in New England - George Henry Durrie
So, I see in the news that it snowed in Texas, southern Texas. Now I've seen snow in Amarillo, a lot of snow. I drove through there back in January of '87 on my way to San Antonio and the snow was pretty deep as I recall. (And that's part of a larger story that I really need to tell someday. Not a period I like to recall, sort of a detour in my Air Force career path. Not a mistake, no sir. Just a wrong turn on my path.)

I also see from friends' posts on koobecaF that it snowed in North Carolina. The news says that snow hit a lot of the deep south. Rare down in those parts, I can't imagine that the folks down there are used to dealing with the white stuff.

Usually getting the roads cleared down yonder is difficult. I mean in southern Texas, the deep south, Georgia, I doubt they spend a lot of money on snow removal equipment.

Up here in the Northeast (and other parts of the northern U. S.) we're used to the frozen precipitation. Not all of us are in love with the stuff, some of us are. I like to see it the first time, it brightens up the landscape.

I always associate snow in December with the coming of Christmas. As a kid, I don't recall any Christmases that weren't white. Of course, some folks' definition of what constitutes a white Christmas varies from other folks.

Some say just having snow on the ground is enough. I'm one of those, but mind you, it has to be totally snow covered, no bare patches. If there's snow on the pine trees that's a bonus, not a requirement though.

Some folks say it's a white Christmas if it snows Christmas Day. Well, I'll be the first to admit that that makes for a pretty special Christmas if you only have to sit at home and not go out.

I remember one Christmas probably not too long before I went into the Air Force. There was a lot of snow on the ground and Christmas Eve we received more, not a lot, maybe six inches or so. But it was enough to keep my maternal grandmother at home, she wasn't going to attempt the drive from her farm over to Mom and Dad's place.

But Dad felt that it would be terrible if we were to leave Gram alone on Christmas. Fortunately, both The Olde Vermonter and I drove VW Beetles. In fact, his was a classic older model, "made from real steel" he liked to say. All I remember is that his Beetle was a lot more robust than mine, which was probably at least ten years newer. At any rate, my Dad, The Olde Vermonter, and I all piled into The Olde Vermonter Mobile and headed out to collect Gram.

Now the old Beetles were really good in snow. I've driven from the old home town all the way up to Newport, Vermont in a blizzard, then back again with nary a problem. They're lightweight and having the engine in the back, over the drive wheels, gave it plenty of traction. We were sailing along just fine until we got to the hill heading up towards Gram's farm.

Wasn't a long hill, maybe 50 yards or so, but the road had seen traffic which had packed the snow down and hadn't been treated or plowed yet. (It takes a while to get to all the back roads and such in Vermont and New Hampshire.) The Beetle just couldn't get enough purchase on the packed snow to get up the hill.

As there was no shoulder to speak of, the old expedient of driving over on the softer shoulder wasn't available. Then Dad had an idea, an idea for which Mom probably would have killed him dead right on the spot if she knew about it.

As he was the most experienced driver, especially in New England winter conditions, he would man the wheel. The Olde Vermonter and I would stand on the bumper and kinda bounce up and down.

Say what?

1963 Volkswagen Beetle
You see, we'd stand on that back bumper you can see above. If you look above the side windows, there's a strip of metal running along the side ending just at the top corners of the engine cover. We could hang on to that as Dad attempted the hill.

With some trepidation my brother and I got out of the car and climbed aboard that bumper and gripped where we could get purchase. Dad had his window down and yelled out, "Start bouncing boys!"

So we did. Gently at first, then we got into it as we realized that the car was slowly going up the hill. Our bouncing got the tires to dig down into the packed snow and create enough traction to advance a bit with each bounce.

We made it up, took a few minutes but we did it. My brother and I got back inside the car and off we went to get Gram. It was a fine Christmas and by the end of the day the roads were clear enough so that Dad didn't need us to ride the bumper to get Gram back home.

I will always remember that. My brother and I clinging to the back of his car, bouncing up and down and laughing like complete loons. I recall being very grateful that we were out in the boondocks with no one around to witness our antics.

Of course, the folks over in New Hampshire (where Gram lived) always thought we Vermonters were lunatics anyway, no sense giving them proof! Heck, nowadays Dad would probably be locked up for child abuse or some such nonsense.

So will it snow today?

We shall see.

Will we have a white Christmas this year?

We shall see.

Any Christmas spent with loved ones is good enough for me, snow or no snow. But still, it would be kinda neat to have snow for Christmas.

And mistletoe*.

* From I'll Be Home for Christmas -
I'll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree


  1. Thanks for the post. I, too, had a VW bug. A great car in the snow.

    Paul L. Quandt

    1. I miss mine. I know a place that has a bunch of 'em up in Massachusetts, fast by the New Hampshire border.

      Every time we drive by I yearn to have another.

  2. I'm not sure precisely why VW bugs do well in the snow, but they do it.

    On another note, wasn't global warming supposed to have ended snow by now? And weren't the ice caps supposed to have melted by now? What gives?

    1. Hahaha. Yeah, the flakes are falling as I type this, must be Algore out there.

  3. Philly snow preps.
    Snowblower tested. Check.
    Snow shovels taken from garage ceiling storage hooks. Check.
    Salt verified in screw lid buckets and delumped if needed. Check.
    Supply of bread, milk, and eggs verified to avoid panic trip to sold out store. Check. (it seems that a report of snowfall brings out an irresistible desire for french toast!)
    Browse DVDs for Christmas movie. Check. (we watch both Love Actually, and A Long Kiss Goodnight every year.)

    We watched "Rare Exports" last year on a whim and really enjoyed it, but we probably won't watch it every year. (subtitle warning!)

    My wife learned to drive on VW beetles, I never had one, and I don't think I ever drove one.

    My rear wheel drive '74 Datsun pickup was terrible in snow until I learned to fill the bed with snow. Then it was just OK.

    You are completely right about family, because change can come without warning, and then we have to deal with the "if only" thoughts.

    Very good post!

    1. Good plan. I was very surprised by just how much I enjoyed Love Actually. I really liked The Long Kiss Goodnight, great premise, well executed.

      Rare Exports appears to be available on Netflix. While I don't speak Finnish, they make some good movies up that way. (I've seen a couple of clips of Finns versus the Russians war movies. They looked good.)

      I'll have to check it out.

    2. Rare Exports showed up included with Amazon Prime a little while ago.
      Still gently snowing in Philly.
      A couple of inches so far.

    3. I was watching the weather in Philly this afternoon, over at the Army-Navy game.

      Looks like it's tapered off here, maybe a bit over an inch.

    4. Oh, "Rare Exports" is such a weirdly good movie. Even enjoyable with the subtitles. Forgot about 'that' Christmas movie. Not quite expecting it to show up on the Hallmark Channel any time soon. (Yes, Mrs. Andrew and I play the "It's a Christmas movie" game, you know, like "Die Hard" is a Christmas movie. If it mentions Christmas, that makes it a Christmas movie, right?)

      Finns, they are sooo much like us fly-over folk in so many ways, so darned foreign in so many more.

    5. I watched the trailer. Looks most interesting, I need to set some time aside to watch it.

  4. Nice memory! THose bugs were the best in the snow those days before everyone had 4 wheel drive, and everyone's father seemed to know tricks for driving in snow as they grew up before back roads were plowed or salted (I remember they used to only put sand on hills). The VW's not only had the advantage of the rear engine weight, but the tires were very large considering the size of the vehicle.

    1. Hadn't considered the tire size, but you're right. The German military used Beetles during the war and had one version with a different body which was analogous to our Jeep. They handled terrain very well.

  5. We got snow south of San Antonio! I found out my grand daughter had been praying every day this year for snow. And we got some.. Heavy, wet snow. We were out like morons in it till my feet were so cold, I could barely feel them. Unlined boots.

    ALL the neighborhood kids were outside yelling and making slush balls. I haven't heard kids outside yelling in forever.

    Last time we saw snow down here was about 13 years ago. It was just a dusting. This snow stuck overnight on the trees and grass. Roads were dry by morning. It's funny how little things like that can impact your attitude.

    Back in '78 or '79, my sister's '70 Ranchero (351 Cleveland) swapped ends going down a snowy hill. She couldn't get back up it either. It spit the hay bales in the back out during the episode. What you call a soft shoulder, I'd call the ditch. I've driven there to get up icy hills before. '69 F100 shortbed with nothing in the back. That was back in Lubbock county. I think the hills were really just swales in the landscape. (Down in the bottoms we'd get runoff lakes they called playa lakes.) We did the bouncing in pickups to make it through the mud. I did that a LOT when I was a kid. Hanging on the tailgate and jumping up and down. I guess New England is WAAAY more civilized than west Texas.... We didn't give it a thought.

    1. Well, a big thrill when we were kids was riding in the backs of pickup trucks. Nowadays we'd all be cited for a lack of safety equipment!

      As for New England being more civilized than west Texas, I won't touch that one.


    2. Trust me, I have seen accidents involving people in the back of pickups that have been in accidents. I would cheerfully write someone a ticket for that.

    3. Sigh, I get that, but the U.S. used to NOT be a nanny state.

  6. Had a ‘64 Bug that I drove about everywhere until it was broken in a rollover.
    It handled about everything asked of it, except that one thing.

    1. That was a good year. I'm pretty sure the one we took "over the river and through the woods" (literally) was a '63.

    2. After I broke the VW I had a '69 Torino fastback with the Windsor 351.
      The back end was so light the wheels would spin on warm, dry pavement.

  7. Mistletoe is all fine and dandy as long as your name isn't Baldar (or some variation thereof.)

    Light cars are fun to drive in adverse conditions. Mrs. Andrew learned to toss firewood or bags of cat litter (very useful for traction) in the back of her Vega when she lived in Tennessee as a wee lass. Only problem she ever found (other than driving a VEGA) was loosing traction on an uphill drive and just sliding down to the bottom, never to move again (until the snow and ice disappeared, of course.)

    1. Easy, Big Guy! You may know someone else who owned a Vega.

    2. A fighter pilot in a Vega?

      Well, alrighty then.


    3. My personal shame was driving a '91 Chrysler Imperial loooooong after '91. Car would short start burning the wiring harness if the lights were turned on. Strictly a daytime drive. The car version of IMAT food.

      As to the Vega, well, most were worth more for the value of their aluminium engine block than actual car worth.

    4. Heh, IMAT food. First time I've seen that. I like it.

    5. I learned the term 'IMAT' from a very staid, reserved, cultured high school teacher. Bout floored me.

      It was like when you see your grandma lean to the left and rip a good butt-toot.

    6. Now that I think about it, fighter pilot owning a Vega may not be so weird. First Vega I ever saw was owned by an SR-71 pilot, as his private ride (the other being a full sized Dodge passenger van.

      Two types of fast flyers:

      1. The Daredevil - fast cars, fast women, lots of booze - think most of the original Mercury 7.
      2. The Calculator - family car, married, lots of booze for the daredevils - think John Glenn during his Merc 7 days.

      My observations into adult behavior as a child showed a wide gap between the two types of fast flyers. Trash Haulers, BUFF drivers and other slower than speed of sound aviator types not included, of course.

    7. Son-in-law has a Dodge Charger. He likes to go fast, in the car and in his jet.

      Of course, they also have a Dodge Durango, the family ride.

  8. Love it. I had Beetles when I started driving--my first and third cars, with a Ford Fiesta in between. Way back in the day tho, my father had a Beetle, and I used to run down to the end of the driveway every evening to meet him when he got home from work so I could ride back to the house standing on the running board on the side.

  9. They already had yellow turn signals by 1963? Cool! I like yellow rear turn signals, they stand out against the red tail lights.

  10. Son in S.C. sent me a picture of his house with snow. Sent him back a picture of a Wyoming highway dry and windy. They moved to the South to get away from snow.

    1. Heh, yup, I've seen that before. Ironic, or something...

  11. Wouldn't have worked on my dad's second beetle that he bought in Newport. It was probably a 63 but he bought it in 75 and it had spent well over a decade rusting away. Still perfectly driveable but there was no rear bumper anymore. It fell off going down the cobblestones on Thames Ave. We left it behind when we moved to Alabama. He bought a rusty old fiat convertible for the trip!

    1. Nothing like a little salt air to rust a car out.

      My '74 Beetle was immaculate when I left for Asia. My Dad said he'd take care of the car for me. Which apparently meant letting my kid brother drive it and never wash it.

      When I came home in '80 the running boards were ready to fall off. Still and all, the old boy made it all the way out to Denver a couple of years later. Sold it to one of my airmen, car lasted another couple of years before the carburetor crapped out. Kid couldn't afford to fix it, sold it to someone else.

      I like to think that it's living on a farm, somewhere in Kansas.


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