As children, we lived for "snow days" in the winter. Coming into maturity on the Plains of the harsh Nebraska landscape was certain to bring at least one or two days of severe, blizzard conditions...those days when even the most leathered of farmers would dare ONLY to venture out on their John Deere tractors to litter the pristine snowy icecap with morsels of food to shivering livestock. The only other activity in my farm village of 400 people remained unseen, within the warm walls of homes heated with wood stoves, gas, and electrical units.
But, as soon as the winds withdrew themselves to nothing more than a deep howl, slowly the children of the "snow days" would emerge from the warmth and safety of their confining, four-walled wombs, and begin to spill out into the snow-covered hills and dirt roads. There was no school, after all, when a "snow day" was declared.
Our Spring galoshes doubled as our winter snow boots--those brightly red, rubber shoes that slipped tightly over a pair of tennis shoes and had an elastic cord hook to tighten the opening half way up the ankle. This design was supposed to decrease the amount of moisture or snow that might fall into the tops of the 1/2 knee high boot, but it was never quite successful...both shoes and socks would be thoroughly drenched after only hours outside in the "snow day".
Mother would always warn to, "dress in layers"--something we found both cumbersome and trite. Too many layers made for difficult heaving of ice-packed snow balls and, at the age of 10, there was no fear of frostbite or gangrenous toes...we were invincible on "snow days".
Long johns, jeans, a heavy coat and hood, and over-stuffed mittens were all that was needed to make a "snow day" complete. We'd venture outside into the elements in search of that perfect patch of moist snow for rolling compact ice to build snowmen and the occasional fortress castle for the inevitable snowball war with the neighbors. Even in sub-zero weather, sweat would bead up on our brows as 2 or 3 of us would huff and puff, putting our "backs into it", to make the largest snowball ever known to man...in avillage, this was something newsworthy and a definite photo opportunity.
My family lived on an unusual parcel of land, with a flat football-field-sized yard (which we called the "draw"), a heavily wooded area referred to as "The Forest", and a terraced field and garden area. It was in the terraced part of the yard, we could often find snow blown drifts as high as 10 feet...the perfect medium for digging deep snow caves and tunnels.
After hours of digging and shoveling snow, eventually we could create our own, private, invitation only, igloo-type hideaway, large enough to fit 5 or 6 more adventurous friends. No one ever gave thought to the possibility of being buried alive by collapse of our ice lined walls...mortality never surfaced on a "snow day".
Eventually, as the winter sun made its quick retreat all too soon beyond the top of "The Forest", mother would call outside with a brisk warning it was time to, "Get in from the cold. Supper is almost ready"...we would begrudgingly return to rest and thaw into the warm wombs of our homes...a home now smelling strongly of homemade soup and delights to warm our frozen bellies.
Rubber boots dripping with melting ice, soaked tennis shoes and socks, and parka jackets would be piled haphazardly near the door as we raced in semi-dry long johns to discover sweatshirts and flannel pajama bottoms to cover the brightly reddened flesh of our arms and legs. Feet would be placed gingerly over heating sources with just the right amount of distance from flame or radiator, as mother once again reminded us, "They'll hurt really bad if you warm 'em up too quickly."
By the time all 10 toes and 10 fingers were successfully thawed, the overhead light in the kitchen illuminated the late afternoon winter darkness, displaying a table set for the Kings and Queens of the "snow day". This meal would carry us over through a few hours of black and white television and on into a peaceful slumber of night...
I cannot recall ever experiencing a bad "snow day"...and for that, I am eternally grateful.