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home : opinion : news views April 29, 2016

1/18/2014 12:23:00 AM
Recollections Of Winter
Gary Gerard
Times-Union General Manager

I used to relish winter. Now, not so much.
I remember when I was a kid growing up in Plymouth, things were different. It’s not like we didn’t have bad snow storms back then. Quite the contrary, I seem to remember lots more of them.
I remember it being snowy around Thanksgiving and not seeing the ground again until March – save for the occasional “January thaw.”
I remember rabbit hunting with my dad and brother on Thanksgiving. It was an annual family tradition. Before I was old enough to hunt, I went along anyway. I would kick the brush patches to scare up the rabbits.
How would I know which brush patches to kick? Easy, follow the rabbit tracks in the snow.
Our house was on Myers Lake, south of Plymouth. When I was in first or second grade, dad decided that we should have a nice sandy beach in front of our house.
I’m pretty sure what he decided to do – lo these 45 years ago – would be completely illegal by today’s Indiana Department of Environmental Management standards. But my dad was a pretty smart guy, so here’s what he did.
After the lake froze, he spread out a very large sheet of black plastic on the ice in front of the house. At some point during January he called up the local excavating company and ordered up a truckload of sand.
Now, our house was perched atop a steep hill overlooking the lake, which was pretty much the way it was for the rest of the houses all the way down to the west end of the lake, about a quarter mile away.
So the guy with the dump truck load of sand drove past our house, down  the hill at the next county road west and out onto the ice where there was flat, easy access.
Then he drove straight across the middle of the lake to the spot in front of our house where he tailgated the sand onto the black plastic. After he collected his fee and drove back across the lake, dad, my older brother and I – along with a couple of neighbors – raked the sand out evenly. Then, in the spring when the ice melted, voila! Instant beach.
See, I think winters were just a little bit more severe back when I was a kid.
In the past 25 years around here, do you think you could have conned a guy to drive a dump truck load of sand across any of the lakes around here?
Maybe once there might have been enough ice for that. Maybe there will be this year, but I doubt it. It got good and cold before and during the Great Blizzard of 2014, but a few days later it was 45 degrees.
My childhood recollection of winter was long, cold and snowy. And after it snowed it would get clear and cold until it clouded up and snowed again. I remember sledding on days when the inside of your nose would freeze when you breathed in, but the sky was high and there was bright sun.
I used to love sledding down the hill behind the house and out onto the lake. Our lot was 300 feet deep and the house was pretty close to the road. The hill started right outside the back door.
So you got a pretty long sled ride.
I remember once a couple of the guys who worked with my dad stopped buy to visit on a Saturday afternoon. A couple of friends were sledding behind the house.
My dad and his buddies decided it looked like fun. They had the misfortune of challenging my friends and I to a sledding contest.
We would see who could glide the farthest out onto the lake from the top of the hill. They would get the record, then my friends and I would break the record. We went back and forth like this for a couple of hours – sledding down, turning around and dragging the sleds and toboggan back up the hill.
It was really cold, but we had a blast.
Come Sunday morning, my dad had a tough time getting out of bed before church. When he finally did get up, he came limping into the living room, rubbing his lower back with both hands.
Later that day, both my dad’s friends called to say they had a tough time getting out of bed, too.
My mom teased dad about that for a long time.
I remember lots of those bright, cold days. And I remember enjoying them.
More recently, within the last 25 years, I still enjoyed winter, although not as much as when I was a kid. When we lived at Dewart Lake I had an old snowmobile. I used to take it around the lake to go ice fishing and drag the kids behind it.
We would take the kids up into Michigan to go skiing and snowboarding. We had cross country skis for gliding around the lake.
I’ve played pond hockey my whole life and I still do that today, but that’s the last bastion of my cold-weather fun.
Perhaps this is all age relevant, but anymore, I just really don’t like winter. I don’t like scraping my windshield. I don’t like shoveling snow. I don’t like driving 30 mph to work. I just don’t like being cold.
Plus, I don’t like the way winter seems to have evolved over the years.
This year has been a bit of an exception, but for the most part, over the past 10 years or so, winters seem to be more gray and rainy than anything else.
Sure we have brief bouts of cold and snow, but then it gets warmer and rains.
It was different when I was a kid. And back then, despite all the snow and cold, I don’t recall having many snow days off school.
Maybe my recollections have become fuzzy over time, but it seems to me back then we were just a little more hardy than we are today. I mean, it took a lot to shut down every business in town and close the schools for a couple of days when I was a kid.
Today, it seems schools close and get delayed quite a bit for all manner of things – snow, fog, cold.
Maybe it’s out of an overabundance of concern for the safety of children, which, of course, is laudable.
And then the media tend to get a little panicky, too. And social media flies off the handle.
Next thing you know, there isn’t a gallon of milk or loaf of bread to be found. I don’t recall when that phenomenon started occurring, but it seems fairly recent.
Well, at least we’re past midway through January.
Golf, boating and motorcycling weather is just around the corner.





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