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Snow day brings new revelations


Like my students, I appreciate occasional snow days. Waking to hear a DJ listing my school on the school cancelation list reminds me of finding an unexpected twenty dollar bill in an old pair of jeans. 

Immediately I do a mental inventory of baking supplies. Good news! The cupboards and canisters contain enough flour, sugar, and shortening for cinnamon rolls, cookies, and bierocks. 

Following my kitchen inventory, I check bird feeders to make sure winter birds won’t go hungry while heavy snow hides their natural food supply. My husband always tosses in some corn to sustain the squirrels.

As long as the food supply lasts, a three-ring circus of birds and squirrels gather to dine on sunflower seeds and corn.  Dozens of chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals, juncos, and sparrows shelter below our cedars, bobbing and flitting from feeder to ground to branches. We feed the birds to help them, but we get a bonus. The work area in the kitchen overlooks the feeder. The antics of the birds keep me at the window long after I complete my tasks.

In the past, our girls planned to sled and build snow creatures.  As they mature, they do that less. I miss those days of insulating little bodies in snow clothes, mittens, and boots. I miss cherry red noses guiding girls in from play to drink cocoa and eat oven-fresh goodies.  On the other hand, I don’t miss piles of coveralls, socks, mittens, snow hats, and boots dripping trails of water. 

My husband and I always worked out the division of labor so I baked and made hot cocoa while my husband did chores and shoveled. This was agood deal for me, especially after this last snow experience.

Just before flakes began falling, a virus felled my husband.  I usually don’t know when he’s ill until I hear him rattling bottles, looking for an aspirin.  This virus, however, had more punch and left him aching and sniffling miserably in his chair. 

Because my administrator canceled school the night before, we slept in on Friday.  Once I awakened, I realized we had more snow and wind than expected.  Since the resident chore-master was laid-up, I bundled up to feed our livestock. A three-foot drift made it difficult to exit the house. Outside, the real work began. 

Our thermometer read between zero and ten degrees, and the Weather Channel listed  a windchill of –15 to –25 degrees. Walking to the corral through knee high drifts and blowing snow woke me up ten times more effectively than the coffee I gulped earlier.  The wind blew from the north, taking half the hay from the pitchfork before I could get it in the feed bunk. What normally took a few minutes took much longer because I also had to plow through another big drift to move from bale to feed bunk. 

After I hauled buckets of fresh water through the drifts, I had an inkling of what my pioneer ancestors thought about winter storms.  I suspected they didn’t look forward to them nearly as much as I had. After my youngest daughter and I shoveled the drift away from the garage and the back door, I had a different view of snow days. By the time we cleared to the end of the cement drive, I thought a full day’s work at school would have been easier.

All these years my husband has done the hard work out doors, while I enjoyed the cooking and baking indoors. By the time I ventured out, he had done the hard work, so it was easy to get to the animals’ pens to water and feed them. He had busted drifts, creating easy to maneuver paths.  Don’t get me wrong. I knew he worked hard.  I just didn’t know hard he labored.

After that snow day, I had new insights. Snow makes extra work for people with outdoor jobs.  Ranchers, farmers, road crews, and oil field workers double or triple their efforts. Snow is only fun for people who don’t have to work in it.

Realization two, pioneers who settled here were tough.  They didn't have modern conveniences to welcome them home.  If they had water, it was because they hauled it from somewhere. If they were warm, it was because they carried in wood, coal, or buffalo chips to burn. Those who lived above ground had drafty houses, and those who lived below ground knew the next problem coming would result from the melt and its complications. In my case, electricity ran our furnace, walls sheltered us from chilling winds, and the faucet provide hot and cold water.  Folks who homesteaded here must have hated snow days. 

I have a new appreciation for my husband’s labor on snow days. I’ll have to make him another batch of cinnamon rolls.