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A SNOWBALLING EFFECT Once he gets rolling about the weather in his day, there's ...


The best part of having a snowstorm is listening to people talk about the way things used to be. After our last heavy snow, I ran into one of my older friends and said to him, "Some snowstorm, huh?"

"Snowstorm? Snowstorm? You call that a snowstorm? A measly few inches? That wasn't a snowstorm, that was hardly a dusting. Heck, I can remember when I was a kid, we used to have serious snow. Not like this. Course, everything was different back then. In those days we had real weather. I can remember having to crawl to school in snow tunnels the snow was so deep, 16, 18 feet at least. That was before school buses or school cafeterias. So not only did we have to crawl on our hands and knees through snow tunnels, we had to carry our lunches, too, in our teeth, 'cause we had to use our hands to clear away the snow in places where the tunnel caved in.

"Used to set off for school at 3 in the morning 'cause it took five hours to get there through them caved-in snow tunnels, and if you was late, look out. Not only would you catch it from your teacher, but when you crawled back home at midnight, your Pa would be waiting and you'd catch it from him, too, for being late for supper."

So then I said that I didn't mind the snow as much as I minded the sleet that coated everything in a layer of ice.

"Sleet? Sleet? You call that sleet? Heck, I can remember when I was a kid, we used to have real sleet. Not these little sissy bits of ice like we get now, but big chunks of ice, big like bricks, only heavier. Big enough to put a dent in your head if you wasn't down inside one of them snow tunnels crawling to school."

OK, I tried a different tactic. "Did you see how big the snowflakes were? I've never seen such big, fluffy snowflakes as that."

"Snowflakes?" says he. "Snowflakes? You call them big snowflakes? Heck, I can remember when snowflakes was five, 10 times bigger than that. Big and round as plates. Little Jimmy Parker nearly died 'cause of them big snowflakes. We was outside, swinging at 'em with bats, when Little Jimmy Parker decides to catch one on his tongue. Dang thing covered his entire head. That boy would have suffocated if me and two others wasn't there to lift the thing off his face."

My turn. "Actually, it's not the snow and ice that bothers me, it's the cold temperatures."

"Cold? Cold? You call this cold? Heck, I can remember when I was a kid it would be 10, 20 degrees below zero nearly the entire winter and that was without figuring in the wind chill because we didn't even know about wind chill back then. It used to get so cold fire would freeze. No kiddin', you ask any of the others who remember, they'll tell ya. And cows out in the field would freeze solid, too. Ever try to milk a cow that's froze solid? It don't work. Then the winds would blow, oh, I'd say 60, 80 miles an hour most of the winter. What happened was the winds would knock the frozen cows over and they'd break right in half. That's how cold it used to get and that's why we don't have so many cows around here anymore. They all froze and broke."

"You're pulling my leg," I said, looking skeptical. He grinned. "Yeah, guess I am, a little. But I'll tell you one thing, Missy, if it was as cold now as it used to be back then, know what would happen? That leg I'm pulling would snap right off."

JOANNE SHERMAN is a free-lance writer living on Shelter Island, N.Y.

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