An old friend barks defiance at winters passed and future.I have not yet pulled out my snowthrower. Foolishly, perhaps, I am counting on the Allegheny Mountains to keep from my door the 102 inches already dumped on Erie and other parts to my north and east.

I learned the value of snow fences when I was a kid. Farmers would stretch the fences, looking like rows of wire-bound two-inch slats, across their fields, about 20-30 feet from and parallel to the road. Wind would blow the snow across the pasture, against the fence, up and over, to drop it down on the opposite side – the side nearer the road – where it “drifted,” into a wall sometimes eight to 10 feet tall.

But not on the road.

A few miles to my west, the Appalachian Mountains – regions of which have specific local names, such as The South Mountains, Allegheny Mountains, Allegheny Front and Great Smokie Mountains –  have a similar effect. For the past 480 million years or so, that line of mountains, thought to have originally been as tall as the Rocky Mountains or the Alps, has been helping keep winters from piling too much snow in Gettysburg.

I’ve been extra thankful for those mountains the past nearly two weeks. I have been grounded by a really rotten cold. A tiring, body weakening, just plain won’t go away and only really hurts when I breath, cough. The kind of cough that leaves one with stomach muscles of steel, though the rest of the body feels more like fresh-baked lasagna – soft and chewy, mostly, a little crusty around the edges.

I have been spending most of my recent days on the couch, bathed in the light of the yuletide conifer, with otherwise sufficient energy to hit the button that plays the next episode of “Longmire” – an interesting tale of modern day cultural clashes between Indians on reservations and the needs of land developers to build expensive homes on huge golf courses. I am about a half-dozen episodes from the end of Season Six, which apparently is all there is. And so will close my first real experience with binge watching.

It is almost 2018. I do appreciate the readers who have followed my thoughts the past year. I’d appreciate you more if you show up next week, maybe having watched the Ball – or the Pickle, or the White Rose or the Black Rose – drop to mark the commencement of the New Year.

I remember clearly the last time I drove drunk. I and a few of my co-workers decided to “relax” before going home – in my case, to a wife and few-weeks-old son. One could say the car knew the way; I certainly didn’t.

Sometimes you just have those flashes that tell you how stupid you’ve been acting, how you could have killed someone. It occurred to me it would be a poor way to start my son’s life.

I’ve never driven drunk again. My wife and I had an arrangement, well before “designated driver” was a thing. When we got to a party, whoever wasn’t going to drive home would give the car key to the other. The person with the key didn’t drink.

I don’t like the idea that police can set up a road block, stop hundreds of us on the open highway, and check our papers, under no other pretext than that someone might be driving drunk.

But I’d dislike in the strongest terms having to read next year of a family that loses one or more of its members to a drunk driver.

Happy New Year to everyone. Party with those who love you, or at least get home to them when the party is over.