Last few days, we’ve had some nippy weather, at least to my way of thinking. Now, I know if you’re from Minnesota, North Dakota, or any of the northern most states, these past few days were probably short sleeve and flip-flop weather.
When I came down the gulf coast forty years ago, it would have been short sleeve for me also. Weather is quite a bit nippier up in Fort Worth, and a heck of a lot colder up in the Texas Panhandle.
How well I remember those Panhandle winters. And how glad I am they’re just memories.
Seems like beginning in October and lasting through March or April, it was bitter cold with the wind howling and blowing snow or rain or both with chunks of ice tossed in just to keep you on your toes.
In our little town, only the courthouse square and the two main highways crossing at one corner of the square were paved. All the other streets were dirt, which mean come the first really wet weather, Mister Mud showed up, gouging ruts in the road almost a foot deep.
One good thing about the ruts was that they kept you from slipping and sliding off the road. The bad thing about them was it was next to impossible to pull out of them to get into your driveway.
For us youngsters who walked everywhere, the water-filled ruts were a no win situation. If you waded them, water poured down your galoshes. If you jumped them, you buried up to your knees in mud.
And speaking of galoshes, which are rubber boots over shoes, they were an exercise in futility for seldom a day passed that we didn’t inadvertently yank a stocking foot from both shoe and boot and plant it squarely in the mud.
That was sure a sloppy mess to cram back into your shoe, but you had no choice. Even I wasn’t dumb enough to run around barefoot.
Early in the year, like idiots, all we school kids looked forward to the first snow, watching it stick against the school windows and slowly cover the ground.
Sometimes if it appeared to be thickening, the school sent the buses home earlier for the majority of the routes were over—you guessed it, dirt roads.
The rest of us, the walkers, were usually released some minutes later, and we tore screaming and shouting into the falling snow like wild heathens.
Sometimes, if the show was really heavy, I went over to Mama and Papa Conwell just across the street. Papa would take me home. Other times, a handful of us boys would carry on a running snowball fight the whole mile back to our neighborhood.
Like all kids, we build snowmen, forts, and stockpiled snowballs.
Such battles were common at recess in our small school, which sat next door to the high school. Usually sixth graders and we fifth graders stayed away from the high school crowd.
One particular day, however, the opportunity for sweet revenge came my way.
The high school boys were locked in a snowball battle with the school superintendent, who had paddled me once or twice (with more delight than I figured he should gain from administering my punishment). I was far off to one side, but I hatched a devious little plan to get back at him. I put together a solid snowball and sneaked around behind him. He was so occupied with the high school boys, he never saw me.
Stealthily, I crept closer and closer. Finally, all I could see was his broad back. Now I had him. I savored my revenge! I drew back, and at that moment, he jumped aside, dodging a well-thrown snowball.
Guess who didn’t dodge?
It caught me right between the eyes.
I bawled and squalled. He laughed and led me to his office where he turned be over to his secretary who dried my tears.
When the kids in my class heard about my misfortune, they laughed. It went on for a week. That was how long it took my black eye to finally go away.
Often we had snow on the ground for several days.
To be honest, snowball fights are entertaining for just so long, and after a few days, boredom takes over.
One winter, Jerry, Donald, and I set out to build us a small cabin where we boys could gather and while away the days.
Finding no material for a cabin, we decided to build it out of the bales of hay my uncle had under tarp. Don’t laugh. A small cave under a stay of hay can be pretty snug especially if you build a small fire for warmth like we did.
What we didn’t realize was—well, that’s another long story, better saved until we have more space.