Snowed In

I loved being snowed in. I don’t mean days when it’s not smart to drive or when you have to shovel your driveway before going anywhere. I mean several days in a row of not having the option of going anywhere.

When you live in the country, and it snows a foot and a half, plus the wind blows and creates drifts of snow three or four times that height, shoveling your way out of the driveway and to the nearest main road that’s being regularly cleared is not an option.

Settling in is the best option.

Snow days were a combination of quiet and chaos. Quiet when everyone settled in under piles of blankets to read or play games. Chaos when piling on layers upon layers of clothes to play outside, barely able to move.

Even being outside and making noise was quieter than usual. Snow has a hushing effect. We’d built snow forts in drifts, create arsenals of snowballs, and try to make the perfect snow angel. We’d traipse to the large hills near the creek bottom with our sleds and try to avoid colliding with all the trees to set new speed records, comparing which kind of sled was the fastest. Those hills seemed huge as we trudged back up to sled again, so we rarely sledded more than a dozen times before heading home for Mom’s hot chocolate. (Sledding became an extended party when someone in the neighborhood added a snowmobile or ATV to cart us up the hills faster and more often.)

Dad joined in from time to time, but he had other things to tend to. Getting a lot of snow meant quite a few things needed to be checked around the farm. The weight of the snow affected buildings. Blowing snow blocked access that livestock needed. Depending on the temperature, water lines to all the outbuildings had to be checked and often thawed. And all the time, he kept an eye on the road, so we could be ready when a snowplow opened it enough that we could make a quick trip to town to pick up a few essentials. Based on how strong the wind was blowing, he’d estimate how long we had before the road would be closed again. It was an important estimate, because being snowed in was one thing; being snowed out created a whole new set of problems.

Those quick trips to town were among the best parts of being snowed in. I saw them as adventure. Everything was urgent: Be ready to get dressed and have all the essentials with you to throw in the truck. Hope that you don’t meet a vehicle on your way down the road, because the snow plow only cleared enough space for one. Stop at the top of the hill that led to the highway and take it ever-so-slowly to avoid sliding into someone who couldn’t see us coming. Have a plan for essential stops in town. Talk with people long enough to share news but no dilly-dallying. Drive away from town and into the quiet again with the anticipation of whether or not the road would be passable. Most the time, we made it just fine, although we often had to break through a drift or two.

We’d get home with a sigh of relief, and a brief flurry of activity of putting away the milk, bread, and other essentials to keep us cozy for another day or two. And Dad would bundle up to check everything that he had checked earlier in the day. Sometimes all I could see of him were his eyes. When he’d come back inside, I could see how cold he was through those eyes. He’d unbundle himself and stand on the register to get as warm as he could while Mom positioned his coat, gloves, hat, boots, and coveralls to get them as dry as possible before his next trek.

We’d all settle in, either enjoying the quiet or piercing the quiet with our irritations of being cooped up with each other. Both happen when you’re snowed in for long.

But I loved being snowed in.