Well, the New Year is here and as of today there is only 75 days till spring, 2015! While growing up on the farm the winters were looked at differently than they are today. When I was a kid we went outside for recess no matter what the weather was doing. I remember bundling up with snow pants, boots, gloves, hat and heavy coat and playing with my friends without even noticing the cold. Playing King of the mountain and never making it to the top because Dean Hotham was on top of the mountain, and there was no chance of pushing him over the mountain. The only time the rest of had any chance at all was when we all piled on top of him and rolling down over the snow mountain with arms and legs flinging all over the place. It was so much fun that we could never wait to go out and do it all over again. We had more time at recess than kids do today and to us it still wasn’t enough. I’m frustrated at the path that our young people appear to be on these days. There aren’t any kids outside playing cops and robbers anymore. You don’t see kids cleaning off frozen ponds to play ice hockey anymore. It seems like they are being swallowed into the cyber world of computer games, i-pads, smart phones and the like. Where will we as a society be in twenty or fifty years? It is thought provoking if nothing more.
I don’t remember a time when I felt like I wasn’t having the time of my life when I was a kid. I had a few spankings when I was younger but ,I know I deserved them. I used to make snow tunnels at home with my brothers and sister for hours on end after chores were done. My father used to plow out the driveway and pushed all the snow into a long, tall mountain of snow for us kids. He did this for us every year, knowing that our craftsmanship was only get better year after year. Again, it would be freezing outside and yet we just didn’t seem to notice it. We would dig for hours and run over to the house, knock on the door, and have mom meet us with a warm and dry pair of mittens and we would be off again. The tunnels were so elaborate. Multiple entrance’s and exits, with a fort on top. A lookout was made and one of us was selected to serve that purpose. We tried to prevent head on collisions with each other, but every night we had casualties. Bumps and bruises, cuts and black eyes, was the norm for us and we took it in great stride. Our cousins would come as often as they could so we always had a group anywhere from eight to fifteen kids playing tag through the tunnels. My cousins lived about three miles through the woods from us and would walk to our house almost every single day. We never ever seemed to tire from it. If anything, we were always trying to out do ourselves and I am pretty sure we did.
Ice hockey was another one of our passions as kids as well. Neighborhood kids from all over used to come to my Uncles farm pond every night in the winter to play. We had bon fires on the side of the pond for light and we would play serious hockey. For years we always got new hockey sticks, pucks and nets for Christmas. If we had ten people there we would have 2 teams of 5. If we had 20 there than we had two teams of ten. It was awesome. I don’t remember of a time that we didn’t have a good time. There was no bickering, complaining, or fighting of any sort, ever. We just laughed. I remember everyone taking extra caution with the younger kids because we knew it was the right thing to do. If the little kids came out, they were on a team. No one was ever left out, no one. By the end of the evening we were down to our tee shirts because we were sweating so much from skating hard. The temperatures would be in the single digits and we didn’t even notice. I wish kids still did this kind of thing.
Another thing that we used to do, and it drove my father mad, was making tunnels in the hayloft too. Now these tunnels were serious tunnels. We didn’t mess around. I remember every weekend and school vacation after all of our chores were done we were in the hayloft. All six of us kids at first, then came the cousins and the friends. We laugh about it today, and I guess we really did back then too. My father always told us to stay out of the hay because we would break the bales open, and he wouldn’t like that. I remember playing all day and going to the house for a snack before evening chores and my parents asking if we had been playing in the hay. In all we probably had a quarter of a mile in tunnels, and they were pitch black. We would play hide and seek and the only way to find someone was if you ran into them or felt them tucked in under the hay or tunnel as they were trying to hide. Of course we denied it, despite all of us being covered in hay from head to toe. They knew all along that we were, but asked us every single time and we denied it every single time. Shame on us! Years later we were able to laugh about it with my parents as we all convened at their house around the wood stove in the garage. It was there that it was verified that they knew all along. They told us that it was always so good to see that all of us kids were getting along. The only time I remember getting scolded by my mother was when I accidently went pee on my sisters head as she was climbing up into the hay loft. I was around 10 or 11 when this happened, and please remember… this was an accident. I had no idea that she was climbing up the side of the hay mound and at the time I really had to go pee. So, being a boy I just went, over the side of the hay mound. No one ever came up that side before so I thought I was safe. All of a sudden I heard my sister scream, which obviously stopped me in mid stream. I was as surprised as she was. She was about 8 or 9 at the time. Well, she went straight to my mother who happened to be outside in the garden. My brothers, cousins, and friends were as quiet as mice in feathers… when I heard, RUSSELL! Well I explained it as good as I could at the time. My brothers were all snickering so it was really hard for me to remain serious. Anyways, I was told ” no more peeing off the side of the hayloft anymore”. And I don’t think I ever did!
This story reminds me of another time we were playing in the upstairs of the milking barn (which we were also not supposed to be doing) when my cousin Danny fell through the floor. It was absolutely priceless! He was in a crawl space that at one time was used for sawdust storage. Sawdust completely dries out wood to a point where it will eventually turn the boards into sawdust themselves, as it did in this case. Well, he yelped when he went through the floor and came to an abrupt stop when he landed on the pipe, in a way that can make a guy hit the highest of notes. He proceeded to spin off the pipe and land on his head in the hay below. It really was serious, but us boys were busting a gut! At the time he didn’t think it was so funny though. Today we continue to laugh about it every single time we get together, which isn’t nearly enough. I hope that changes in the near future, before the dementia takes over my thoughts. I want to share so much. I have so much more to say, and I am honestly afraid that I won’t be able to get it all out on paper in time. But I am certainly going to try!