Saturday, February 5, 2011
Retired Newspaper Columnist Dan Whittle Smyrna, TN

It's mystical how we have such warm remembrances of otherwise brutal tundra-like cold-to-the-bone childhood "snow days."

Brrrr, even when freezing, snow days seemed to end on a warm note when Momma Whittle and Aunt Durette Reed would help shed our hats, scarves, gloves and layers of clothing to warm next to the Warm Morning coal-burning stove.

"We'll put your wet shoes and clothes here by the fire, to let them dry out," instructed Auntie while Momma was pouring us a hot cup of sassafras tea.

In the meantime, Granny Grunt, Mom's mother who was staying with us at the time, would hike the back of her dress and back her broad fanny as close as possible to the heat of the stove.

As shivering cold farm children from romping in the snow for an hour or two, we'd snuggle in around big and fat Granny Grunt and the warm stove.

But all was not fun and games in post-Depression years, when chopping axes and sledge hammers were required to break the ice for cows and hogs to drink.

Ain't nothing like grabbing a cow's cold udder on a snowy, cold winter morning. Your milking hand would ache and throb on real cold days. It probably wasn't too comfortable for Old Bessie, the milk cow, either.

On the joyful side of snow-filled days, it was high-drama the fateful day older cousin Robert Terry Reed decided Little Danny was old enough to "take rabbit hunting." It meant I got to tote the dead rabbits, for Robert Terry was a "crack shot" with his .22-caliber single shot imported rifle from the Sears-Roebuck catalogue.

Our regions' recent multiple snows gave me cause to pause, and wander back to the wonders of boyhood snow days on the farm.

Being flat farm land in Missouri, we didn't have hills to slide down. No problem, for neighbor farm boys Bruce Gene Bryant and Billy G. Bryant would crank up an old farm tractor and pull us younger children gleefully through the snow on the large make-shift sled (a converted car hood).

I remember delighting when one of the "sissy" girls, such as cousin Sandra Kay Reed, could not hold on, and go tumbling off the sled into a pile of snow.

But it was also joyful glee when Bruce Gene would suddenly turn the John Deere sharply, resulting in the sled speeding around in a tight circle and throwing all of us boys off into a heaping pile of snow. That's when the girls would laugh at us boys, who thought we were tougher than prissy/prancing little girls.

Retired Auburntown/Murfreesboro teacher/principle/superintendent Jerry Gaither, age 83, recalls "snow days" during the Great Depression.

"We had a Maxwell car until 1929, when the market crashed. After that, we had no car," the professor instructed. "From our farm hollow 3 miles from Auburntown, we'd walk the mile-and-half to get the bus. But it seemed more fun when it would snow, for we'd have snowball fights and push each other down and get rolled in the snow while on the way to the school bus and back home. I remember, with my short legs, I'd have to skip and run to keep up with older brothers in the snow...

"But on most snow days, we rabbit-hunted," Jerry recalled. "Older brother I.B. was a crack brother David and my job was to sneak up on the brush piles, and jump the rabbits for I.D. to shoot. Same went for doves that liked to hold up in the sorghum shocks...particularly it seemed when it'd snow...and we'd flush them out...and I.B., most of the time, would shoot the doves in the head...with a .22 rifle...that's how good a shot he was...he did all the hunting, for in those days, you had to be saving with your store-bought bullets. It was fun, but it was serious too, for meat was hard to come by."

"Mom (late Joedy Hawkins) died when I was so young, so I don't remember her. But Dad ('Mister Jess' Gaither) didn't like for us to get out and play much in the snow, for it would damage our store-bought leather shoes. We didn't have good boots in that era. I do recall we'd make some delicious snow cream, but that was when it was safe to eat snow cream, before we fouled the atmosphere up so much.

"On snow days, I recall helping neighbor widow women with their wood chopping and cow milking duties," the retired teacher tutored back through time. "It was a good thing, for neighbors knew they could ask Mr. Jess Gaither and his boys and they would come and help. One lady's husband died, I remember we all made the crop for she and her three children that crop year."

Such are the remembrances of two aging former farm boys and their special "snow days" of youth.

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