Reminiscing on the many joys of winter

A good, deep snow purifies the air, clears the mind and beautifies the landscape. I tell people how I yearn for snow, and they look at me as they often do, with a mystified look of disbelief.

I know they are thinking about icy, slushy roads, cleaning off windshields, shoveling walks and driveways and those piles of scarves, coats and wet socks and boots at the back door. I don’t mind the ice, although I know it is dangerous. Just move more slowly, afoot and behind the wheel.

It all goes back to our family’s move when my brother and I were small boys from Arlington, Ky., in Carlisle County to Fort Worth, Texas. In Fort Worth I yearned for snow, however, during our five years there, it snowed only once, if you could call it that. It was a one-inch dusting that lasted all of one day, an all too brief powder that failed to produce the magic of the crystal beauty I remembered in Kentucky.

Instead, I choose to remember the delicious experience of a Kentucky teenager: rolling over to listen to a local station on a bedside radio, the announcer reeling off school closings, in alphabetical order, schools called off for the day or if we were lucky, even longer. My high school was Webster County, so I had to wait patiently, expectantly until the announcer finally made it to the “Ws.” If my school’s name was called, there was no better feeling in the world than to flick off the radio, pull up the covers and hunker down for an extended winter nap on into the morning.

We were usually called in by the coach for basketball practice, anyway, but these snow day practices were simply not the same as the usual after- school sessions.

Exhilarated by the snow, we made it to the gym before the coaches, dressed quickly in an icy locker room and goofily took the court, playing the fool until the coaches arrived. We heaved shots from the bleachers, threw basketballs up through the rafters and tried Meadowlark Lemon hook shots from half court.

Once, the head coach sneaked in and caught us. He witnessed our shenanigans and promptly ordered us to the end line for two-and-a-half hours of wind sprints and block out drills. We really didn’t mind too much. When practice was over, we headed out into the fading afternoon to a winter wonderland.

We made circles – cutting donuts – in the empty school parking lot, skidding and sliding around in the snow and ice, before finally making it out to the cleared and salted main highway 41-A into town. Those were the days.

We gathered at someone’s house to eat popcorn and watch television, all the while thinking about the next day. Had it snowed enough to call off school for another day?

Winter snow days in western Kentucky were so much better than the snowless winters we spent in Fort Worth.

In Arkansas in January 1994, a huge snow came the day our daughter Cammie Jo was born. We brought her back to our faculty house, stepping carefully across the uncleared driveway with our precious cargo.

Back for a visit in Kentucky, it snowed one Halloween, and Wesley made a snowman in his grandparents’ front yard to greet the trick-or-treaters. I also remember a heavy snowfall one Easter morning in the 1960s.

We gathered in the quiet hush of early morning for a community sunrise service. We sang “In the Garden” as the delicious smells of coffee and cinnamon rolls wafted up from the church basement. After the service, we partook in an Easter church breakfast. Then with the service and breakfast over, we filed out of the church into the pristine white miracle of Easter snow.

I changed into sweats, cleared the snow off the outdoor basketball court by our house and shot baskets for the rest of the morning. That’s what a teenager did in Kentucky in those days.

Now, as I write this column, I am sitting by thefire in our family room, and guess what? Even though the snow has all but stopped, ice has covered the limbs of our trees and a combination of snow and ice cover our front yard, backyard and the streets as well.

I wish I could stand next to a window and, peering out with my father, hear him say in the inflection and in only the way that my father could put it, “My, it’s really coming down out there.” I wish I could hear my dad say that one more time.


Column by Duane Bolin, Professor of history