What to do when snowed in?

The Times (Northeast Benton County) - - OPINION - JERRY NI­CHOLS Colum­nist

It has been awhile since I have ac­tu­ally felt “snowed in.” Our win­ters in north­west Arkansas are so var­ied that be­ing “snowed in” is not some­thing that hap­pens of­ten. Some win­ters bring hardly any snow at all. When we do have snow, it of­ten hap­pens that the melt­ing starts right away, and only a day or two af­ter a snow most of the ac­cu­mu­la­tion is melted away. But ev­ery so of­ten, we can see a real win­ter storm, with heavy snow, sleet and ice, and some­times it stays on for days; even weeks.

I re­call the win­ter of 1983, when the tem­per­a­ture stayed near 0 for a month, and our ponds and streams froze over with thick layers of ice, much as they com­monly do in the north­ern states.

Be­ing “snowed in” is some­what of a rel­a­tive term, and it can mean dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple, de­pend­ing on where you live and what you com­monly do. “Snowed in” means that you are con­fined by the win­try weather and the slick and dan­ger­ous con­di­tions it cre­ates. In our case, when I was grow­ing up, we thought our­selves as snowed in when we couldn’t get our car out of the drive­way, and when the cold and icy wind made “stay­ing in” so nice that we didn’t want to get out­side any more than nec­es­sary.

Of course, be­ing a farm fam­ily, with live­stock to care for, chick­ens to at­tend to, and chores need­ing do­ing ev­ery day no mat­ter what, we never were ab­so­lutely “snowed in.” For us, the cows had to be milked, the herd needed hay and wa­ter, the chick­ens needed to be fed and wa­tered and kept rea­son­ably in­su­lated from the cold. There was no way we could just stay in the house in tough weather and still main­tain our liveli­hood.

But there were def­i­nitely times when we spent more time than usual “stay­ing in” be­cause of the cold and ice. We got out, and got the nec­es­sary chores done, but then we would get back in the house to soak up some warmth from the old wood stove.

What does a per­son do when you are “snowed in?”

I sup­pose that in these days of smart phones and video games, those be­come a source of en­ter­tain­ment for many peo­ple. But what did we do back when none of those things were avail­able? Many of our peo­ple living now can read­ily re­mem­ber when no­body had TV, when the In­ter­net had not been in­vented, when there were no cell phones, no Face­book, no Instagram, no Twitter, and when there was noth­ing elec­tric in the house be­cause there was no elec­tric­ity. Do peo­ple today sup­pose that ev­ery­body back then just led a bor­ing life?

As I re­call, life has al­ways been in­ter­est­ing. I don’t re­call very many times when I was se­ri­ously bored. One learns to dis­cover in­ter­ests by re­spond­ing to the avail­able op­por­tu­ni­ties.

When we were “snowed in,” that meant that we had snow to play in, as well as to come in from. Even when the cold was bad, we usu­ally saw the snow as a fun op­por­tu­nity. It was af­ter we were “about froze” that we would come in to warm by the fire. Be­ing in­side was also an op­por­tu­nity to learn a mu­si­cal in­stru­ment. I can play the pi­ano, gui­tar and man­dolin mod­er­ately well today be­cause of be­gin­ning back there in the 1940s when we were snowed in.

I know a bit about tun­ing and re­pair­ing pi­anos be­cause of ex­per­i­ment­ing with our old Elling­ton up­right pi­ano on cold win­ter days. Be­ing “snowed in” might also be an op­por­tu­nity to read Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn or some other book, or to read a mag­a­zine or a news­pa­per. We al­ways had the Farm Jour­nal, Hoard’s Dairy­man, Coun­try Gen­tle­man, Ben­ton County Demo­crat and South­west Times Record. Those were al­ways in­ter­est­ing.

Then there was ra­dio. Well, yes, back in the 1940s we had some elec­tronic tech­nol­ogy. No, it wasn’t tran­sis­tor­ized like today’s elec­tron­ics. Our ra­dios were filled with glow­ing clear glass tubes, which did the magic that is han­dled by today’s tran­sis­tors, but they got the job done. Ra­dio pro­grams back then were more like TV pro­gram­ming.

We could lis­ten to sit­u­a­tion come­dies, mu­sic pro­grams like Grand Ole Opry, soap op­eras and so on. Some of my fa­vorites were the Lone Ranger, the Green Hor­net, The Shadow, In­ner Sanc­tum and Sky King. We also had Ozzy & Har­riet, Jack Benny, Luigi Basco, I Love Lucy, Our Miss Brooks, Amos and Andy, and oth­ers.

There’s al­ways some­thing in­ter­est­ing go­ing on and things to do, both now and way back then.

•••

Ed­i­tor’s note: Jerry Ni­chols, a na­tive of Pea Ridge and can be con­tacted by email at joe369@cen­tu­ry­tel.net, or call 621-1621.

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