The Bright Side
Brrrr! We are still in the clutches of Old Man Winter. The calendar shows that it is almost April, but one glance out the window makes me believe it is January. Freezing temperatures and fierce winds have rattled the windows and my bones throughout the month of March. That is not the way it is suppose to be. For days the weather report has included a warning about a ‘winter’ storm. Several inches of snow is suppose to fall tonight. Here on the Ridge, it started spitting ice around 3:30 p.m. today. The wind had picked up and was roaring through the big pines. The bird feeder was empty again. That was my cue to don my boots and venture out to fill the feeder and take the dog her dinner. I filled her house with fresh straw while I was out.
The change in temperature was a shock. When I was out earlier this morning, the air was warmer and the wind was calm. Now the western sky was gray and heavy. The storm was getting near, the animals knew that. The birds and squirrels were busy loading up on sunflower seeds. Sleet started falling before I finished my chores. Soon after I came back in the house, it switched to snow. Big fluffy flakes were falling fast, transforming the Ridge into a white wonderland, much like a Christmas card.
I decided to stir up some corn muffins to go with the pot of ham and beans I’d been simmering all day. Cooking a pot of beans makes me think of my Mother. She made beans every week on wash day. Watching this spring snowstorm stirred up a crazy quilt of memories from my childhood. After the end of WWII, when I was a small child, we lived in a log cabin in Brown County, Indiana. By ‘we’ I mean my mother, myself, two brothers and baby sister. Dad was working in the city, 60 miles away and only came home occasionally.
The cabin was small, just two rooms and a loft. It must have been about 20 x 20 feet. A huge native stone fireplace dominated the living room. A cookstove filled one corner of the kitchen. My older brother, Red, and I had the chore of keeping the wood box full. Not an easy task for kids just starting elementary school. We had a big old two-man saw. That saw was longer than I was tall, but I could push my end through a log. I remember standing in front of the fireplace to get dressed on winter mornings. The side facing the fire was too hot and the other side was freezing. I’d turn my self around like a pig on a spit, trying to keep both sides warm.
That old cabin was made from huge native logs with mud chinking. It is still standing, a tribute to the skill of the man who built it over a hundred years ago. Thanks to the Rural Electric Act we did have electricity. Of course, there was no inside plumbing. Water was carried in the house from a well which had a big hand pump on it. In really cold weather our hands would stick to it, if we were not careful.
Did your mother make snow ice cream? Do you remember eating this delicious stuff? It was a real treat when the land was covered with several inches of fresh snow. Mom would send us out with bowls and strict orders. “Dig down a few inches, don’t get the snow right on top and you better bring back enough for your little brother.” Red and I would dash out to a big drift, scoop up bowls of snow and make a quick return to the warm kitchen carrying bowls heaped high with glistening snow. We’d stand by the cookstove with the fire popping and cracking to get warm for a minute or two. Then we’d sit at the table while Mom mixed up the liquid to transform the snow into ice cream. Steam would rise when she poured the liquid mixture on it. We’d stir it all around until it was just right and then savor every bite, freezing our tongues in the process. Little brother, Billy, always got his own bowl, for we had followed instructions and brought in enough for him. Mom would sit at the old maple table with us smoking her Chesterfield and drinking coffee while we ate. She’d take turns scooping a spoonful out of our bowls to feed baby sister, Linda Belle, who sat in her highchair watching us all with her big blue eyes.
As I write this I am trying to remember what Mom poured on the snow? Some sugar and maybe Wilson’s Milk. We didn’t have a cow then and we used a lot of Wilson’s Evaporated Milk. Mom saved the blue labels and sent them in for things. One year she got me a beautiful blue birthstone ring for my birthday. There came a time, after we moved back to the city, when she wouldn’t make snow ice cream. She said the air was too dirty and the snow wasn’t fit to eat. I wonder what she would think of the snow now that falls through air filled with all sorts of poly carbons and other chemical pollution?
This winter has been strange and stubborn. We’ve had cold temperatures, ice storms, bitter winds, and lots of snow. Everyone I know is ready for spring. I noticed last night that the days are getting longer. I am looking forward to the first daffodil bloom. The plants have been up a long time; they have yellow buds. Spring is coming! I’m holding on to that thought and remembering a simpler time.
‘til next time,
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