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The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sub Terra Vita: Chronicle #50 Battles of “Snow-maggedon”

Sub Terra Vita: Chronicle #50
Battles of “Snow-maggedon”
By Tim Krenz
January 25, 2018

Remembering winter from my youth in the St. Croix Valley, I recall the snow most of all, and although we got conflicting weather patterns and snow from different compass points in western Wisconsin, it always came down from the sky. Sometimes it even pistol whipped us sideways, whenever a good blizzard and the winds hit us just at the wrong time. It always seemed to come down in instant drifts in the 1970s and 1980s, as heavy snow and wet in swirls, or so my imaginative memory thinks today. A village buried in snow meant pleasing words to eager and attentive ears listening to the radio during breakfast on school mornings. “Osceola Public Schools—CLOSED.”

A snow day! A fun day it always became on those not infrequent days in January, February, March which followed the snow storms of the century. For a snow day usually involved some epic, special recreation.

On a normal winter's day, the kids on the upper part of the village, south of the Soo Line tracks, did the normal things—on weekends and AFTER school. Bundled and stuffed in multi-colored snow gear and black and blue snowmobile wear, we sledded down hills in the neighborhood, in front of my house or out back in the Industrial Park. When not dodging huge oaks and elms and pines in the runs, we jumped creek beds on toboggans, until someone like a cousin broke her leg landing on the ice of the stream. Even though that would end the fun, we went back and did it again anyway the next day.

Most of the normal freezing days, we built snow forts out of the crusty, hard old snow. Those never stood up well but served their purpose. Digging dangerous snow tunnels in the plowed-up banks of snow? Yep, we did that, too. Like all kids everywhere, we did kid stuff in the snow. Under the water tower, in the park on top of the railroad embankment, we played hockey at the small ice skating rink, next to the tennis and basketball courts all buried in snow. Some of us had hockey skates, some figure skates, and some just shuffled on the ice in black rubber boots or moon boots, with the felt or cotton ridiculously lined with bread bags to keep the feet dry. Few of our neighborhood gang knew about hockey, but it served us well to try. We learned the manly art of cross checking more than we learned to handle a deft stick to put a puck on goal. Still, we played hockey, though badly.

All of these things we did, normally. But a snow day from school? That demanded something different. A snow day meant a different aspect in the snow, a change in the way we played, and a true duty to other suckers in other districts who had to go to school that day. We owed it to all boys and girls everywhere to have the ultimate battle Royal of the winter months, in our neighborhood, and in the name of all others, everywhere. We owned that duty.

The days school stayed closed for snow invariably meant we had a deluge of the heavy wet kind of “sky snot,” the type of snow with which we could do something useful. This particular type of snow came with a warmer temperature, still tipping around freezing, but not the deep Arctic freeze that arrived following the light, fluffy sorts of “sky dandruff” snow. If warm, the snow stayed wet, causing especial strain when we shoveled out the house entries and the driveways and mailboxes, those places where the snowplows rumbled up huge banks of dirty, road crud snow. Once we finished our grueling chores of shoveling snow, the playing on the snow day began by rallying at the funnest places for a heavy duty snow day of fun.

One particular day when school closed after a warm and deep snow storm, the south hill gang of the village all gathered at a usual play site. Located at the southwest corner of the railroad tracks where it intersected “old M” road, it did not have any of the usual playground amenities. It had no swings, no slide, no merry-go-rounds. What did it have to attract us so near a railroad intersection? Well, it had a narrow, tree-free, dug out side of the ridge line that formed the upper area of Osceola. Since the earth of that exposed embankment, without snow cover, looked and felt a grainy, very reddish and heavy muddy dirt, we knew it by its colloquial name, “the Clay Pit.” And when the heavy snow came, and it gathered against, on top, and below the sheer and steep face of it, the Clay Pit served as the ultimate in death sliding and cliff jumping down into snow piles.

The face of the pit did not drop too treacherously far, but it did provide its own unique fun, terror and challenge for all kids. We would bring sleds to jump and tumble, helplessly, down the bank. After a couple of superman flops down, the red muddy streak marks from the mix of earth and wet, melting snow left our clothes and faces a series of smears in sepia brown. Eventually, on that one particular snow day, like others, we all geared and itched for “the Battle.”

It never happened by any deliberate game play, or the choosing of sides, or by capturing any nebulous flags, nor according to Marquise of Queensberry rules, either. The battle just began with whoever found themselves on the top versus those under the handicap of standing at the bottom. It seems to me, that day like many others, the battle for the Clay Pit supremacy just started when someone threw the first snowball.

The battle involved snowballs, but it also took form as an inelegant ballet of king of the hill, on a real tall hill with a straight up climb. The hard and packed snowballs we prepared, sometimes secretly minutes ahead, hit with the impact of ice balls, but ones with hard mud and gravel mixed in them. Some fired less effectively up at the defenders; yet, most of the ice balls plunged with full force downhill. If kids got to the top, they of course tried to toss the defenders down, onto the slithery slope and into mud below. Most of the time, the topside hoplites paired in teams to toss the Light Brigade chargers over the side and back from whence they came—dropped to the muddy snow drifts. As the ice cannon balls flew, they caused some pain, though less on the breastplates of snow suit armor. If hit in the face, the projectiles left red and cold marks, perhaps a cut on the cheek even. Some cried, but all tried to share the laugh.

That day, like always, at some point those below the hill gave up their futile charge. If anyone made it to the top to join those happy fewer who outnumbered the attackers at the start, they all claimed the victory of good, or bad (?), in the winter struggle of Snowmaggedon, “The Battle for the Clay Pit Heights!”

And like other kids everywhere, following the snowball fight, we trudged in our small gangs to someone's house for stories and soup and hot chocolate. Everyone victors, we all shared the honors.


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