Central Wisconsin in January some 35 years ago was much different than it is today. Piles of winter white surrounded our home. The folks would monitor the radio for the threat of another storm brewing in the southwest part of the country that might plow through our region. As a result, in my childhood we had lots of snow days when the schools would close, and traffic on our country road would be non-existent.
I recall many times my Mom saying as she looked out the living room windows, that the passing car was the first one out on the road, and then she would look out a southern window to watch and see if the car made it up the way. Our stretch of country road was prone to drifting with open fields on one side, and so winter weather would often close it down. There were times the car my mom was watching had to turn around due to the high drifts. This would confirm for her the severity of the storm. This was also the time she would say should it be a cancelled school day, ‘they made the right decision’. Though we might be loud and ‘underfoot’ I know she was happy to have us home instead ‘of out in it.’ She never knew the storms as friends like I did.
And though it may be hard for some to believe there were other times that no traffic would be on our road for days due to the heavy snow and blowing winds. There were times at night when the snows woudl fall that we would listen to the radio and schools would already be closing for the following day. Other times we would wake up and start the process of getting ready for school when the announcer would say we were not going! HURRAY!
My father who worked for the county would drive a huge snowplow and keep the main roads open. He would come home for supper when he thought he could take a break and tell the stories of how bad the roads were. I loved the stories of how the ramps on the highway were icy and slick, or ‘they can’t get through up on ’73’, but my Mom never seemed to find the adventure in a snowstorm that I did. Many times I recall my dad saying they needed to ‘bring in the Oshkosh’ . Those were magic words to a young boy, as I knew then that the storm was a real nasty one since the Oshkosh was a double bladed snow truck that would not only push the snow off the roads, but also mound it far off on the shoulders. I suspect to ride in one was a bit like taking a mini space shuttle ride, real loud and bumpy.
I rode a few times in my dad’s snowplow while he raised heck with the drifts and ice on the highway. Sitting up so high and seeing the snow plume off the wide blade was perfect fun for this kid.
But there was nothing better for really pushing the snow into high banks then when my Uncle would pass on our roads driving the motor grader with a huge wing plow attached to it. After he made his trip down the roads the piles of snow could be over half way up a telephone pole. I have pictures of this, even though it is hard for young people to believe.
After a good ole winter storm, when the roads again were passable, and when my dad had caught up on his sleep after working long hours, he would tell us that we had to see how some of the roads had drifted in. I think he enjoyed the snowdrifts in his own way too. Off in the family car we headed down the back roads and I was AMAZED at the huge piles of snow mile after mile in the ditches. I would remark that they would be perfect for sledding, and my mother would instantly reply, “You would be hit by a car.” She may have been right, but so was I.
These are now just memories. My childhood home remains, but winter lost its identity over the years, and the boy who marveled at the snowfalls lost some hair. However, the boy inside still gets all excited when the forecasters promise snow, even though the reality is always so much different. I feel sorry for the young kids today who will never know the feeling of having their roads not passable, or the family car literally devoured by a snowdrift in the driveway.