“At the heart of the meadow, the old watering hole froze over quite nicely. We used the horse-drawn sleigh to get there and before long, there we were, ice skating like old timers who skated every day. The chill was held at bay by our laughter and glee. There was no place else we would rather be!”
— Anna Setton, 1924
As we find ourselves in the middle of a deep freeze, I am reaching the realization that the winters of our youth were much more fun.
As a child, the snow was welcomed with great anticipation. I remember hoping it would keep coming down so that the sled riding hill would be perfect for hours upon hours of great entertainment. We didn’t mind the cold temperatures — we saw the plunging mercury as a promise that the snow would remain with us for days on end.
There were several winters in a row that our large farm pond froze over deeply enough to provide a community ice skating rink and we loved every minute of it. We knew that we were not to set foot on it until the adults had tested it for solid strength and we knew not to rush the process. Until the deep freeze had set in for long enough to freeze the pond deeply, we entertained ourselves with the sledding hill.
Our tree house was built at the foot of the sledding hill and sat close to the deep end of the farm pond. So, it stood to reason that we would set up our winter hideaway in the tree house. The neighbor girls brought a thermos of something I had never heard of: Bosco. We had grown up on fresh, whole milk with chocolate added to it whenever we wanted a warm treat. Bosco tasted like a left-handed city drink to me in comparison, and it seemed a thrilling new find. We added to our fine dining by providing sleeves of saltine crackers. We were living the high life!
I remember the aggravation of the first several trips down the sledding hill, especially if the snow was a heavy, wet snow. We needed to blaze a path with the saucers before we took the sled down the hill, or the runners would bog down in the process.
My cousin, Connie, was always willing to make several trips down the hill with the round saucer and she could climb back up that hill lickety-split. She would jump back on that little red, round gizmo and head back down the hill. Each time, she was picking up speed and packing that snow down in to a nice, slick path.
By day No. 2, we usually had at least three paths ready for our sledding fun and it was the perfect setting for races. We raced not only for speed, but for the length of the final destination. Our big goal was to pick up enough speed that our sleds would carry us as close to the tree house as possible. The tree house sat on flat ground a fair distance away from our snowy slope, but with enough traffic sailing down that hill, we would pick up speed with each trip.
The shouts of joy and laughter were surely what warmed us and propelled us to stay at it for hours on end. I remember frozen noses and numb fingers and toes, and I remember feeling almost deliriously worn out from the climb back up that hill time after time, but none of us wanted to call it a day.
When we did return to the warmth of the house, we would place our wet gloves and hats on the floor registers throughout the house, with the promise of knowing that as soon as they were dry and we were thawed out, we could head back out to the slope again.
In between our fun, of course, there were always barn chores and milking to be done. I remember sympathizing with the cows’ icy noses, knowing what it was like to feel totally frozen. My sisters and I would take turns warming up beside the Knipco heater in the milking parlor and spraying our boots with the hottest water we could summon from the hose in hopes of thawing our frozen toes.
But, in spite of our suffering, we didn’t see it as anything but part of the winter adventure. We watched out the window for more falling snow, knowing that another day of fun was in store for us tomorrow.
Life was good!