By Jeff Keeling
As I bent, scooped and packed snowballs Monday in one deft motion (or so I liked to think), I remembered oh so clearly how much better it is to give than to receive.
It could have been 1974, it could have been 1976. We could have been in Brad Holt’s or David McKee’s apple orchard, we could have been in my back yard, or we could have been halfway down the Two Mile run at the Loup Loup Ski Bowl, about as mobile as Peyton Manning in our heavy ski boots. Exact time and place were irrelevant. The relevant details were the snow conditions and the mere fact that we were 10, 11, 12-year-old boys.
Whenever and wherever it was in the greater Omak, Washington area, as the snow reached the proper conditions, there would be pain. Pain given through an adequately molded but accurately fired ball whose deliverer had fully intended to zing a headshot at his buddy. Pain received as the thwack of the freezing orb commingled with its sting on cold skin.
It was all good fun, and no one ever lost an eye.
If Sunday’s fast-falling crystals and Monday’s perfectly packable slush were the final course, the past several weeks have provided a satisfying multi-course meal for local snow-lovers.
We’ve had snowflakes; we’ve had graupel (see nsidc.org/cryosphere/snow/science/types); we’ve had polycrystals. The speedy descent of Sunday’s snow, the leisurely, wafting path of January 23’s daylong show of polycrystals that deposited four inches of lovely powder and all the snows between have not disappointed.
All of it has marked yet another satisfactory year since the return, around six years ago, of winter patterns that actually included wintry weather. The ebullient Owen and I have had a good run of Pop Pop/grandson adventures since he was old enough to toddle about in the white stuff, and the addition of the spritelike Emmarie to the mix these past two years has doubled the fun.
During the “big ones” a few weeks ago, we started a snow fort, I dragged the two of them down the alley on a tarp, they caught flakes on their tongues, and they enjoyed the “pizza” I gave them by pulling slabs of harder crust from above the soft snow below and shaping them like slices. Owen and I went a few rounds with snowballs, though with him too little to appreciate the sting of a high hard one and me with my bum shoulder, we kept it on the tame side.
The coup de grace came Jan. 24, a beautiful, sunny Sunday. The previous day’s powder, and the few inches from the midweek dumping underneath it, had formed a plentiful pack for sledding over at ETSU’s disc golf course. Previous sledders had packed down runs and the sunshine had their slick surfaces glistening.
Borrowed saucer sled in hand, Owen and I trudged up the steepest hill at hole number five. By the time we reached the bottom after an adrenaline-inducing run, his initial trepidation at the vertiginous descent had been replaced by sheer joy and exuberance.
An hour later he was solo master of the milder slope at hole two, and I had to drag his cold little rear end back to the car. That’s as it should be. It’s snow. It’s fun. I hope we get another one.