Archive for Thursday, December 31, 2009

Snow easier to handle in modern age

December 31, 2009

I’ve never wished for a white Christmas. I don’t like snow and cold weather and would be perfectly satisfied with a nice warm sunny day for Christmas. When I saw the foreboding weather predictions, I closed my ears and hoped that the snow and blowing cold would go south or north or any place but here. After all, the weatherman said that our last white Christmas in this area was in 1962 and that was only an inch of snow. So, I continued my plans for a late Christmas dinner in the days before the holiday. The only real precaution I took was to make sure that the game controller I’d gotten for my grandson safely made it to his house. I didn’t want him to be without it on Christmas morning when he received his new game box.

Now that Christmas has come and gone, all I can say is: “Why didn’t the white go with it?” It’s still cold, wet and white. Worst of all, the roadways and walkways are slippery.

Somebody sent me an e-mail with pictures of sweet farm children and animals frolicking in the snow. It didn’t fill me with delight. It made me shiver. I grew up on a farm/ranch, and I remember only too well the snow, cold and wetness of bad winters. There were times on the high plains when snow drifted over the entrances to our homes and knocked down fences. We didn’t worry too much in the early days about the loss of power because we never had any. The snow drifts, and cold just elevated ordinary life from hard to harder.

In my earliest memories, the worst part was the trips to the outhouse located a considerable distance from the house near the barn. My mother would dress us all up in warm coats, boots, mittens and scarves. Then she would accompany her three young children through the drifts, by the now mostly empty bunkhouse to that outhouse and wait for us. Believe me, we did not dally. For extreme needs in the middle of the night, we had a chamber pot, but it was mostly for emergencies.

In those early days, we had kerosene lanterns and later gaslights. Luckily, we lived on vast reserves of natural gas, and as part of the negotiations for placements of gas wells and for royalties, my parents negotiated free household use. As a result, there was a large floor furnace strategically placed in the middle of the house in the dining room. I wore long flannel nighties and on cold mornings would stand over the furnace letting warm air rush up under my nightgown, eyes closed in bliss.

There were early-morning chores. Cattle, chicken, pigs, horses and pets had to all be fed. Milk cows needed attention. Eggs needed gathering. The water tank had to have the ice broken so that the farm animals could get a drink. But after the necessary attentions to maintain life, animals returned to huddling together near any kind of shelter available, and humans returned to a warm spot about the fire. There was little to be done other than to survive. We didn’t have television or computers or video games. We read or slept or did something with our hands. My father would sometimes clean tools, my mother embroidered, and we children would play games, read or draw.

I don’t wish the return of those days. I enjoy present day comforts far too much. I don’t like being cold and isolated. I like being able to flip a switch and turn on a light or the furnace, to move a handle and have fresh water come out the tap.

I even like living in the city and being able to call for help. We almost lost our water for Christmas. Our water meter broke the evening before Christmas Eve, and we were afraid that we wouldn’t have water during the holidays. We were blessed with the quick attentions of our city’s water department. Personnel came out at 9 p.m. and replaced it within the time span of an hour and did it with a smile. Of course, we were further blessed by the vigilance of our next door neighbor who noticed it and let both us and the water department know. Otherwise, we would have no doubt gone to sleep and awakened to no water the next day.

The old fashioned days were good sometimes, but the present, with its technology and nearby friends and relatives, is awfully good, too. Now if we could just do something about the weather, life would be perfect.

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