By: Virginia R. Manuel
By, Virginia R. Manuel
All the hype on the news this past week about the impending storms got me to thinking about how much fun winter was when we were kids. I loved the snow when I was growing up. We lived in the mountains and we got lots of snow in the winter. We looked forward to it for a few reasons.
One was a lot of snow days so that meant no school. We had no TV or radio so you got up and got dressed for school and waited for the bus. We would wait to hear the unmistakable clink-clank of the chains and the chugging of the old bus as it came up the snow packed road. If it came you went to school. If not, then you had a snow day.
We had outside chores to do and we got to tromp around outside in the snow. It made the chores more fun. The creek would freeze over and we would have to break up the ice so we could get water for the animals. We had to make sure there was creek water for dishes, bathing, etc. We also had to make sure the wood box was stocked with wood for cooking and we had to have coal for heating and kindling for starting a fire.
Feeding the animals was a twice-a-day chore. Hay, oats and corn were standard fare. The milking had to be done and the hogs slopped, chickens fed and the eggs gathered. The horse had to be fed and watered.
If there was a big snowfall we would have to shovel a path to the barn and outside buildings including the outhouse.
After chores were done we had plenty of time to play in the snow. Our first priority was to build a snowman—the biggest snowman we could. We would then go to the woodshed to find coal for the eyes, nose and mouth and to the corncrib to find a corncob for his pipe.
Sometimes we would take our homemade sled and the washing machine lid with us. The lid was round and shaped kind of like a saucer and it made a great sled. We all took turns hauling that big lid up the hill behind the house, then we would all pile on for a thirty to forty second ride to the bottom.
One year for Christmas we were lucky enough to get a Clipper sled to share between the five of us. It was a used one but we thought we had the world by the tail as we went flying down the hill on our new sled.
My dad had built us a couple of rabbit traps and set them up near the edge of the woods. My granddad had a big pair of rubber boots and an old pair of those buckle-up galoshes. We would put plastic bags over our shoes and then put on these big boots (probably about a size 12). I remember the boots came up to my knees. We would bundle up with old coats and gloves and headscarves and take off for the woods to check our rabbit traps.
The trap was basically a square box made out of lumber about three feet long. We also had some that were made out of a hollow log with a board on the back so the rabbit couldnt escape.
There was a trapdoor on the front and a forked stick made out of laurel set about halfway back. About two thirds of the way back a hole was made in the top to hold a notched stick. A string was attached to the top of the stick and ran through the forked stick and to a staple that was attached to a trapdoor in the front. We would bait the trap with a couple apples and set the notched stick and the trapdoor. When Mr. Rabbit went in the trap to get the apples, he would knock the stick over and the door would slam shut and Mr. Rabbit was caught and would soon be simmering in the stew pot.
We caught a lot of rabbits that way. We also caught other animals such as possums or coon. One time we even caught a polecat. I will spare you the details on the demise of the polecat. I never actually saw it but I could tell by the smell it was a polecat.
We would come back to the house on those cold winter days soaked to the bone and cold as cold could be. After hanging our wet coats and mittens behind the Old Buckeye stove to dry we would settle down with hot chocolate or maybe some popcorn and Koolaid and maybe a checker game or two. It was a great way to end an adventurous snow day.