Archive for Thursday, January 29, 2009

Inside is best way to experience snow

January 29, 2009

Ever notice how, no matter where you move, it never seems to snow as much as it did when you were a kid.

Find anyone past the age of 30 standing on a street corner in Des Moines or Dallas or Denver or Daytona Beach, and the chances are good they’ll tell you that these snows today are nothing compared to what they saw as a child.

One of my earliest memories (I might have been 4 or even 3) is of being bundled up to go play in the snow after a blizzard. That winter we lived in a cabin camp on the west side of Colby. I mention Colby because western Kansas does occasionally get real blizzards – the kind that closes the highways and strands people and livestock, sometimes with tragic results.

I remember the snow had drifted to what seemed to me to be incredible heights, sometimes obscuring fences or who knew what else. Once I walked partway up the frozen crust on a drift; when I finally broke through I fell in clear to my chin. I remember my mother bundled me up in some sort of winter suit that so restricted my movements I couldn’t put my arms down at my side, but held them out from my body.

Then there was the time Mother made snow ice cream. We may have had this delicacy at other times during my childhood, but I only remember the once. After a heavy snowfall (not the same blizzard as before – we were living in a different place by this time), we scooped up several cups of fresh, clean snow and blended it with milk, sugar and vanilla.

You can still find the recipes on the Internet. Some suggest using raw eggs, but I don’t remember that.

We moved to Overland Park when I was 5, just a few weeks before I started kindergarten, and I remember snows there and later in our home in Roeland Park, but never to the extent of that one blizzard in western Kansas.

I had occasion to witness one of those western Kansas blizzards during my freshman year in college, and that is another memory that lingers.

A friend and I had enrolled that year at the University of Denver. We came home for Thanksgiving and headed back for Denver on Sunday. The weather was pleasant enough when we left, but we started encountering problems after we crossed U.S. Highway 81, which is usually viewed as the demarcation line between eastern and western Kansas .

In those days Interstate 70 was completed only about as far west as Topeka, so we took U.S. Highway 24 west from there. About Hoxie or Hill City we ran into torrential rains, but it was still fairly warm. We stopped for a quick supper when we passed through Colby.

The front moved through while we were eating. When we started again, the wind was blowing fiercely out of the north, whipping tumbleweeds across the road in our headlights.

The snow started somewhere between Colby and the Colorado line. Just a few flakes at first, it quickly built in intensity until we were almost in a white-out. We crept slowly along the highway. I had my face in the windshield, looking for taillights on the road ahead, while my friend, who was driving, opened his window and trained a four-cell flashlight on the centerline of the highway. I think at that point we would cheerfully have traded places with anyone who was not actually condemned.

Nevertheless, we finally made it to a town where we could take shelter until the worst of the storm passed. When we finally rolled into Denver, about two or three in the morning, we discovered about a three-inch snowdrift in the backseat; the wind had stretched the convertible top enough to let in that much snow. Those two memories – playing in the snow as not much more than a toddler and driving through it as a young man – comprise most of my memories of snow. For now, I’m content to dwell on them rather that make any new ones. In other words, when it snows now, my preference is to stay inside.

John Beal is the retired editor of The Eudora News’ World Company sister publications The Shawnee Dispatch and Bonner Springs Chieftain.

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