Rushville Republican

February 11, 2014

Extended snow and cold brings up memories and questions

By Paul W. Barada
Rushville Republican

---- — In case you were wondering, the first day of spring is March 20th, just over a month from now. While I would never presume to speak for anyone else, March 20th can’t come too soon for me. When the compilations are finally made, my bet is this winter will go in the books as one of the coldest and snowiest on record. There have been days when, despite the blue skies and sunshine, the temperature still was in the single digits. Back on January 26th, the temperature was in the 30s and it almost seemed like summer!

As a matter of fact, the afternoon of the 26th, Connie decided it would be a perfect time for me to shovel our front walk. Actually, it wasn’t too bad – almost seemed balmy outside – except for the snow-covered landscape and the car-stopping drifts in the driveway. After I removed most of the snow, I dragged out a broom and swept the excess snow off the side walk and it actually looked pretty presentable.

The only other winters as memorable were 1978 and one winter when I was in high school. It has during the basketball sectional, and fans were trapped in Memorial Gymnasium by a snow storm. But as far as the amount of snow, the Blizzard of 1978 has to rank right at the top of my list. The night the blizzard struck, our electricity went out, so we were stuck in the house with no lights, no heat and too much snow in the driveway to leave. Our kids were little at the time, and the Sheriff’s Department finally had to come to help us get to town. By the time help arrived, about two feet of snow had drifted over our driveway. The snow was so deep that Dave Clevenger had to carry Jonathan, who was only two years old at the time, out to his four-wheel-drive vehicle. Connie and I carried our other two boys. We ended up spending the night at the Durbin Hotel with a lot of other friends and neighbors who were in the same boat, so to speak. It turned out to be a fun gathering of people; and, best of all, we were warm, safe and the Durbin family was as gracious as you would have expected them to be. The kids thought it was a great adventure!

Trying to get around in dangerously cold temperatures like we’ve experienced this winter is an entirely different situation. We’ve had plenty of snow, even if not as much as during the Blizzard of ‘78. One of the differences is that 36 years ago we weren’t nearly as well prepared for more than two feet of snow, ice, and frigid temperatures as we are today. The city, county, and state highway crews are much better equipped to deal with the sort of weather we’ve had; and, frankly, I don’t know how they do it! Despite the snow in my driveway, the county roads – and there are hundreds of miles of them – seem to have been plowed and made navigable very quickly.

Way back when I was a kid, the city would occasionally block off Perkins Street so all neighborhood kids could sled down it, (there were no cars out, anyway!) We would start at the corner of 5th and Perkins and see if we could sled all the way across the railroad tracks. Funny thing: I don’t remember anybody worrying about the possibility of a train coming along.

We also used to go sledding down the little hill in front of Saint Mary’s School and down the hill that used to be behind St. Mary’s before it became a parking lot. We could actually get a pretty good ride down the hill behind St. Mary’s School. One time John Howell and I were sitting on the same sled having a great time going down that hill when we suddenly hit an unseen rock near the bottom where a little creek used to run. I was on the front of the sled and John was sitting behind me. We hit the snow covered rock so hard that John did a complete somersault over me and I slid right off the front of the sled, so we both landed in the snow in exactly the opposite positions we were in coming down the hill! Happily, neither of us was hurt, but it was a memorable wintertime experience.

We also used to go ice skating on the pond over on Ft. Wayne Road near the railroad tracks. I think it was called Herkless Pond, (I don’t guarantee the spelling.) We also played hockey there with brooms and a tin can. I remember it being great fun, and the pond was frozen solid enough that there was no danger of anyone falling through – or at least we didn’t think there was any danger. That pond was a really beautiful spot after a snowfall and we’d use those brooms to sweep off the snow so we could skate and play tin can hockey. But those winters were just ordinary winters with acceptably cold weather and a reasonable amount of snow.

I also recall going skiing a few times in Michigan and northern Ohio during the winter. It’s amazing how warm skiing can be, even on days when the outdoor temperature is in the low twenties. The amount of effort it takes to ski – at least for me – always kept me warm enough not to notice the weather, even on the “bunny slope.” Yelling at people to get out of the way was, all by itself, enough to keep me warm! (I never got beyond “snow plowing” to stop or intentionally falling down!) And I would rather not talk about my experiences with ski lifts and tow ropes, thank you very much! But I wouldn’t do any of the above now with an outdoor temperature of only eleven degrees, not counting wind chill.

Ordinarily, winter is a beautiful time of year, especially when there’s a new dusting of an inch or two of snow on the ground and the trees sparkle in the morning sunlight and, as an observer of nature’s beauty, you’re inside a warm house. But this year’s extended spell of ice, snow, and bitingly cold weather makes one wonder why we live this far north. Of course, this coming July we’ll be wondering why we live this far south!

That’s –30—for this week.