It never mattered that snow fell every year in Greenwood Center, Maine. One felt the first bite in the air sometime the last of October and by the time that Lester Cole’s chicken landed on our Thanksgiving table, there were snowbanks and frozen bogs. Yet, somehow, my father never seemed to grasp that eventually the ice would replace the rippling waves of Twitchell Pond and the house would be a virtual ice box. Behind the house was a pile of trees he had cut randomly when the thought occurred, piled high, snow covered, with limbs sometimes attached as if another idea occurred to him in the midst of it all and he just left the tree where it fell.
He supplied the “kindling” by bringing home a bag of “blocks” from the mill, all of which my mother appreciated since she was the early morning fire starter and coffee maker.
Each day after school, my brother Rex headed for the back yard and loaded the trees on to the sawhorse and used Dad’s bucksaw. Meanwhile, my oldest brother started the wood fire and I stood at the kitchen table, peeling potatoes for supper. There is nothing as cold as peeling wet potatoes in a cold kitchen…well , yes, there is. After I finished that task, I helped Rex with the wood by holding on to the end of the tree while he sawed to make sure we didn’t break Dad’s saw blade. When we figured there was enough to fill the big wood box at the end of the kitchen, we carried it in, snow chunks falling down the sleeves of our coats until our mittens were soaked and wrists red. By then, the kitchen was beginning to get warm, so we held our hands over the stove long enough to get us through another trip to the back yard.
Ah, but you’re saying, that is awful! We didn’t think of it that way. Did we like it? Not really, but those were our chores each winter day. This was before snow blowers and little pick up trucks with plows attached, so Dad left the car by the road and between the six of us coming and going, there was usually a trodden path between that and the house.
I can’t think of anything more splendid than sliding in the moonlight. We had a Speed-Away sled which we shared and one vintage sled which was mostly a couple boards and two runners, which sufficed. Oh, how we loved the crust! We started behind my Grandparent’s farm way on the pasture hill , gave the sled a running push and flopped on it to slide all the way down the hill to the road. Our cheeks were red and stinging with the cold, but we continued the sliding until Ma called us in the house.
Even though Roland bought ice skates for me, I was never good at it. I loved the tires burning, sending a stench through the neighborhood. I loved taking a few strides and thanking the Almighty I hadn’t fallen on my face. Roland could skate forward, backward, spin..oh, he was good. I tried to stay upright. The neighbors did not complain about the tire stench. Sometimes I saw my Grammie Martin standing on her porch, the kitchen light behind her, watching us around the fire.
I think every kid loved crust back in the 40’s and 50’s. Oh, we could walk everywhere through the pastures and not sink in until the winter sun finally shone. Give us a big piece of cardboard and we sailed down the hills twirling around as we went. We forgot about the wood cutting, the cold potato peelings and the snow chunks down our sleeves when we were sliding, skiing and skating. Remember how we kept our skiis on? Well, I didn’t because that was another sport that always found me floundering around on my back. My brothers cut rings from innertubes and fixed them about the toes and back of their feet to keep their skiis sturdy. They were stored on the stairway and each brother knew which pile was his. They looked the same to me.
To attest to the fact that my talent flagged in winter sports was an unfortunate incident later in life when I was in my senior year of high school. I was fortunate to become Queen of the Carnival Ball. So when the Winter Carnival was going to take place, I felt I should participate in some way, shape or manner. I scanned my options and knew deep in my heart, that the word FAILURE was stamped on them all. Still, my pride remained. I would enter the snowshoe contest. If I fell it wouldn’t be far…how much damage can one do on snowshoes? Dad agreed that I could borrow his snowshoes but be sure and “bring ’em back”. There was one other girl signed up for this event. She appeared with a pair of bear paw snowshoes. COME ON!! My Dad always said they aren’t snowshoes unless there are tails on them. What a woos she was to bring those things. Well, long story short. We stood poised at the starting line. Away she went on her little bear paws; I took probably four steps , the tails crossed and I plunged face first into some crust. That stung. It purely stung. I succeeded in getting into a position to take the dreaded LONG TAILED snowshoes off, meanwhile watching a gathering of fellow students studying my face which apparently resembled a lattice work of little cuts .
Jeannie Mills insisted I come with her to their farm, which was near the event. I cannot remember the treatment she gave me, but it eased the sting and my pride. I probably was the only “Queen” at the Carnival Ball with a beautiful blue gown and a checkerboard face. Looking back, I was more concerned that my face wouldn’t sting all that evening during the ceremony rather than what it looked like…oh to be young again!
So winter back in Greenwood Center, Maine, was a double edged sword. It had its ugly side with the snow chunks, broken buckles on our overshoes,( clang clang) but it was another world when it came to play time. We didn’t mind the cold when we were doing something we loved; only when the chore time came around.
Men and their shovels were recruited to shovel drifts around South Pond that the town truck could not plow through; jokes were made that Roy Millett only used a tablespoon of sand on our icy Greenwood Road. But bless the man. He held the job for years and I don’t know what we would have done without him.
It’s inevitable. The snow always cometh.