Kate Flora: The weatherman says we should expect severe cold by the weekend. Farther
north, there will likely be snow. I am settled into my now daily wardrobe of fleece-lined leggings and a heavy fleece top. Not figure-flattering but when the weather is this cold, I’m not planning on venturing out. My husband doesn’t notice and my plants don’t care. So as I settled in at my desk, scrolling through old posts for today’s inspiration, a copy of mom’s first book, From the Orange Mailbox, tumbled off my over-crowded desk. I started thumbing through it and decided that today what we all need is a dose of country living and old-timers storytelling from A. Carman Clark.
The old-timers brought forth their stories about blizzards in this valley each time anyone “from away” complained about the winter storms. They told about tunneling through drifts to get to the barn and how in years past piles of snow were still snug against the north sides of buildings on May Day.
One year, I was told, the drifts in front of my farmhouse were so high that the men plowed out (or was it rolled down?) a detour around behind the barn and up through the blueberry field. They didn’t find East Sennebec Road again until April.
Driving through these winter storms leaves me feeling as though I’ve just been given three blood transfusions. No matter which route I take, I can’t get out of town and back home without facing at least one big hill. If there’s a storm, there are cars slithered crosswise halfway up or down those hills. I find myself talking to my car the way my grandmother used to talk to her horse, coaxing her on, praising her steadiness, and shouting encouragement as we gently skirt the stalled vehicles and climb on up the hill.
The first–and best–advice given to me about winter driving was offered by an old-timer who rescued me about a month after I got my first driver’s license. My multiple attempts to get up over Town House Hill (the only direct way out of the village in those days) were observed with interest by the men socializing in the local garage.
Finally I went into the garage to ask when the sanding truck might be along. No one knew but they did express the opinion that with good driving that hill was not a hazard. I wasn’t about to put on another backsliding exhibition. I stood quietly thinking very evil thoughts until at last one of the old-timers allowed as how it would be neighborly if he got my car up the hill for me.
After he had backed down four times (aware of the audience) he volunteered to drive me home in his car by the alternate route up the other side of the river. Enroute he gave me advice about driving in Maine winters.
“Now, comes weather like this you just make believe you got a dozen eggs right there on the seat beside you and you drive so they don’t fall off.”
“I wasn’t driving carelessly,” I protested, “and a box of eggs…”
“Lady,” my instructor said gently, “them eggs ain’t in no box.”
Many dozens of imaginary eggs have ridden beside me through stormy winters. Advice worth remembering.
But if I don’t have to venture forth, I like blizzards. I think of them as a warp in time–a period of unallotted hours. Freedom from musts and should and any kinds of chores. Usually I mix some bread dough because I enjoy the kneading and the aroma of baking loaves. I read, take naps, dig out some old 78 records, thaw some strawberries and asparagus–just let go and enjoy my own company.
Blizzard days were a pleasure when the children were in school because all took a bit of that “this day is a gift” attitude. From the upstairs bedroom we would drag down the Blizzard Box which contains years of recipes clipped from newspapers and magazines.
First we’d rummage through, taking and thinking about something different to eat. Then we’d set a few aside to try someday. Eventually we’d find a few too good to miss and start cooking. Many of our family favorites (preserved in the Good Book of Tested Recipes) were discovered and tried out during raging northeast storms. The box went back looking as full as ever but it was a delightful way to spend a few housebound hours.
Most of the old-times who told of blizzards past are no longer around–but their tales remain part of the legends of this valley. Perhaps their storms really were worse or longer. Or it may be that they settled in and enjoyed them and wove yarns to pass along to newcomers in Georges Valley.
When a blizzard can be–like a vacation–a suspension of regular activities in order to rest and refresh one’s mind and body, it adds a lift to the weeks of winter.
I have two blizzard tales from Sennebec Hill Farm. In 1956 (or thereabouts) the snow was so deep they couldn’t clear East Sennebec Road, so Dad had to ski to the common because we were out of milk. New Year’s Eve in 1964, there was one hell of a snow storm and wind piled it up so high by the oak tree up the road from the house that when Benny Mitchell tried driving home from the New Year’s Eve Fireman’s Brawl as it was called, he got buried in it, walked down to the lake, up the ice, then up the river and came to in his bed the next morning. Now THEM was real storms, not this nose-drip semi snow and ice we get these days. Now I gotta decide whether it’s gonna be a shorts day since the wind chill will resemble s republican’s IQ later on.
Now, John. Don’t be bitter. Think where you’d be if you’d WON that jeezley election. Sitting on some numb bunny committee in Disgusta listening to some tree hugger millenial complain about the Gov’s plan to build a solar energy wind plant in Wallagrass to power all the sports bars in the Old Port.
Oh, no! Not in Wallagrass! Please not in Wallagrass. We don’t get enough wind to support those ugly monsters
We have 12 of them on the ridge above our house about 3 miles away. Never have caused a problem and no noise. Kind of fascinating to watch, actually. Reminds me of Europe. Powering the lights at Fenway Park, I hear. ⚾️
Oh, my gosh, John. You never fail to make me laugh. Thank you!
This post was like a warm, fuzzy blanket. What a voice your mom had. Thank you for sharing it.
Oh, the memories this post brings. My dad taught me to drive in ice and snow. Our town was mile long up and down a hill. Always interesting. We couldn’t drive in winter until we could ice drive – and we learned how on the local skating rink before it opened for the season. No forgiveness on sheer ice. Just for kicks, a few years ago, I drove the ice road over Eagle Lake. My husband turned an odd shade of white when I told him. He asked why I would do that. My response, “To see if I still could!”
What a wonderful conversation everyone. It is true. The winters aren’t anything like they used to be. More than once a winter the boys would have to push our school bus back on the road. And a snow day was called when the superintendent couldn’t walk across the street to the school building. Great times to be a kid!
Never was in Maine in the winter, but no doubt winter has changed. We used to get up to 6 foot of snow here and many days at -40 or lower. I imagine drift was a big issue at The Orange Mailbox. According to Bill Carman the first school snow day was when I went. Before that they had a perfect record. I imagine drift would mean snow days were more frequent in Union.
My mama sure could write. Such big shoes to fill.