The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Do You Remember The First Snow Of The Season

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1995

Issue: Winter, 1995

The most enjoyable winter childhood memories of many an older person was playing in the big winter snows of their youth. Many old-in-years, but young-in-heart people still get excited at the weather forecast of the first snow of the year.

Were the snows of our youth really much deeper than the snows today or did they just seem larger to a small child? Old timers tell of snows so high that they would drive over the tops of fences on the snow in horse drawn sleds or sleighs. Roads were forgotten as they chose the best cross country way to get to where they were going.

Did it seem like the first good playing snow always appeared when you were sick with a cold or something and your mother wouldn't let you out to play in it? There was nothing more miserable than looking out a window at your brothers, sisters and neighbor children having the time of their lives when you couldn't join them.

And what did the children of yesteryear do when they played in the snow? The favorite activities were (of course) sledding if there was a descent hill near by, and (of course), in the mountains, there was always a good sledding spot near by. Some fortunate children had store bought sleds and they were envied, but the lack of a store bought sled never stopped mountain children from sledding. Everything from homemade sleds to a piece of cardboard was pressed into use when it snowed. Other favorites were discarded car hoods - they would hold a lot of children at one time, but it also took a group effort to drag it back up the hill for another ride.

Just as golf courses have their sand traps and water hazards, the courses for sledding always seemed to have their own hazards and traps. Some of the worst were a pond at the bottom of the hill, a patch of blackberry briers, too many trees and so on. Many people up in years still bear battle scars from a sled ride that went astray.

Another favorite snow activity was building snow men. There was the standard snow man that is three balls of snow they were rolled up and placed one on top of the other, but when creativity jumped in, the snow men sometimes became snow women, adorned with Mother's cast off clothing.

Who could forget building a snow fort and dividing all the kids up on sides to do battle royal! Rules were set ahead of time, such as no "hard" snowballs that contained ice or rocks. A heavy snow and a good snow fort could stand for a week or more of hard play. Children couldn't wait to get outside each morning to the fort and begin the battle for the day, and would only stop long enough for meals and when they were called inside by concerned mothers.

Mothers were always concerned that the children were getting too cold or wet. All children were warned about frostbite and told horror stories about lost toes. Every mother made sure their children were bundled up in as many layers of clothes as the child owned and could possible get on at one time. Many children were lucky if they could move in so many clothes.

Some children had ice skates and could skate on frozen mill ponds. If the temperature was low enough and you had a flat spot, you could pour water on it and make your own ice skating rink.

Could anyone who has ever tasted snow cream ever forget it? Children were sent out with a large tin pan or bowl and to get snow from a clean, untouched spot. When the bowl of snow was brought inside, Mother added cream, vanilla and sugar for the most delicious ice cream in the world. Today, it doesn't seem like there is a single place clean enough to collect snow to eat. It's as though the snow itself is dirty when it falls.

Have we forgotten any of your childhood favorites concerning snow? If you have good snow stories, let us know and we will print them in the next Winter edition of The Mountain Laurel.

As this is written, I'm looking out the window at the first, six-inch, moist, fluffy snow of this season. Standing at the window, sighing occasionally, wishing he were outside, with his little nose pressed hard against it is my seven year old grandson who has a sore throat and ear infection. Times, styles and circumstances may change, but one thing remains constant - A child's attitude about the first good snow of the season!