Winter Woes

006Ma is at the kitchen counter and flour is flying all over the place, but she is forming her biscuits and they are the best. I think she does her best thinking when she is busy, because she doesn’t say much but once in awhile I hear a “harrump” come out of her throat and know she is not pleased about something. It probably has to do with gossip because she does not like gossip and thinks there is something good in everyone. 

It is pretty warm because Ma has stoked the wood stove to bake off her biscuits. Thank goodness, because the snow is piled high against the house and it is a cold day.

Dad has gone with a bunch of other men to help clear a storm up around South Pond. Up by the old Joe Cummings’ place the wind whips across the pond and drifts the snow so hard the town plow can’t get through. The town asks for men to take their shovels and just dig through enough so the plow can finish the job and clear the road to Locke Mills.

Ma mutters she wishes he would clear a path to the outhouse at the edge of the woods and a path to the road before he went off to work for the town. Maybe that is why the “harumph” came out of her throat.

Well, it isn’t easy getting to the outhouse without a path and when Rex and Roland are working, we usually do not have one. Dad owns one shovel and sometimes it seems he is not keen on finding the end of it, at least that is what Ma said once, after she had to wade out there. Ma doesn’t rile too easily, but I think that was a bit too much.

We usually have a path to the road because Dad hauls bags of blocks home from the mill to help start the fire in the morning and a narrow path makes it easier to pull the sled. By the way, he uses our Speed Away sled, made in South Paris, Maine, for that job. At least it keeps the rust off the runners so when we want to run and do a belly flop at the top of Gram Martin’s hill , the old sled really takes off in a hurry. Dad leaves the car in a spot by the road. He shovels the spot just the width and length of the car, while Uncle Louis is shoveling the hill next door for Gram Martin. He slices the snow so that it looks like he is cutting into a wedding cake. Every piece is almost exactly the same and when he is finished, there is not a crumb of snow left in the driveway. But then, Uncle Louis is like that. He stacks the firewood so it looks like it is picture perfect. Maybe he does things so perfectly, that he got all the talent for that and Dad just decides to do what is necessary and not a stitch more. I bet that is it.

Dad is not fond of winter anyway. When he was younger, they say, he was snowshoeing across Twitchell Pond and got as far as Elmer’s bog and fell through the ice. He managed somehow to pull himself out but I never did get the details. I don’t think it was one of his tall tales because I have heard other people talk about it.

Dad is a story teller…one time not long ago he was at work. Now the mill sits near a railroad line and a train was coming through. I don’t know what the conversation was but he was talking to a friend of his and the man finally figured out that Dad was giving him a tall tale and got so frustrated, he bit a piece of Dad’s ear off. Not a big piece, but he has a sizable scar there…and a passenger train was going by at the time. Now I wonder what those people thought to see a grown man dancing up and down holding on to his ear.

The wind whips the snow across Twitchell Pond and it piles up in good shape in our front yard. The worst part of winter is coming home from school and having to cut wood to fill the wood box. Rex goes out back to the sawhorse and starts cutting with the bucksaw while I peel the potatoes and the fire is built so they will cook. Then I go out back to hold on to the long pieces of trees so the buck saw blade doesn’t buckle and break. Dad would have a fit because almost every week, he balances it in front of the kitchen window and files it sharp. We are both scared we might break his saw blade, so we are careful, but it is also cold!! Then we each take an armful and carry it in the house until the box is filled. By that time, the snow has gone down our coat sleeves and melted, so our arms are red and cold and our hands are frozen. We sling our mittens on the stove to dry and that smell is awful, but necessary and then we hang to the stove to get our arms warm. I throw in some blocks to get the fire going pretty hot, even though they are supposed to be used only for starting the fire. Cold hands call for drastic measures I say.

Just let me say I will be glad when the snow melts by the edge of the brook and I can see grass again..and I don’t care if it is brown. At least I won’t be wading.

*picture of lower Twitchell Pond taken by Debra Dunham

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