The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

Visions of snowstorms past

Winter at the lake(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 1/24/2014)

Winters of my youth I remember being way more snowy than those of more recent vintage. I mentioned to an old guy one day that as cold and snowy as it now seems, there was a time when by late October the snow would came up to my, uh, posterior.

He offered the possibility that my posterior was closer to the ground in those days – but I remember being 17 and one afternoon at the start of hunting season pushing my way downhill through the snow below Bates’ farm, hoping to flush a deer out of the pines at the edge of the pasture. Instead, I bagged a pair of Partridge for dinner.

If they’d stayed snuggled in the snow-laden pine, I would not have known they were there. Instead, they busted a hole in the cover, and hesitated at its edge before flying off – which they didn’t get to do. There’s a moral in there somewhere.

We were one of those Jeff Foxworthy-type families; the instructions to our house ended with “after you leave the hard road,” which was the start of the gravel road that led to our home in the woods.

There was an addendum to our instructions: “If water starts seeping around your car doors, you drove too far.”

The end of our driveway was about 20 feet short of the lake.

I was about 10 when we made the permanent move from the Big City to the North Woods, and Dad bought a used Jeep with a plow. What we now call a Wrangler was then simply a Jeep – canvas top and doors, pneumatically powered windshield wipers, and the horn button strapped to the side of the steering column.

The back seats were simply the flattened tops of the fenders. The front seats, though they appeared to have cushioning, were not much more comfortable. “Pedal to the metal” really meant something; there was no carpeting to block your view of the road when the steel floors rusted out.

The engine was a four-cylinder, 65 horsepower model – I think that was the only version available. Three steel sticks poked from the floor. One was the three-speed-and-reverse shifter, one engaged 4WD, and the third was Low Range. Pull the third one and step on the gas, and you could walk faster than the Jeep would go, even with your foot on the floor. But it would pull – or push – a pile of snow. Until about mid-to-end February.

Most of a winter was cold, and the snow was “dry,” meaning it could be deep but still easy to plow. It was fun to ride along as Dad raced out and in the driveway, the snow flowing back into the woods like a bow wave from a summer boat ride.

Then came the Spring snows, when temperatures started to warm and snow bearing moisture from the Gulf of Mexico piled deep and heavy. I didn’t put together the seasons thing until much later. All I knew was in late February, it could take all day and half the night to plow 24 inches of the heavy white stuff.

Actually, “plow” was something of a mis-characterization. Even with the Jeep in low range, Dad would push the plow about 10 feet, rolling a humungous, tightly packed, snow-log in front of the blade. Then Mom and I took snow shovels and moved the impediment out of the way so Dad could drive another 10 feet.

It’s no wonder I was so slim in those days.

Now, of course, I have a gas-powered snowthrower.

1 Comment

  1. Ah, the good old days. Nice to remember, but I wouldn’t want to do them again. Great story telling. Loved your description of how deep the snow was.

    Back when, the bus superintendent determined if school would close for a day. He was tall, probably 6’2″ or so. To us, he seemed a giant. Any way we used to say he never cancelled school until the snow was “posterior” deep to a giraffe.

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