As I lean on my shovel that has not been used a few too many times I look over the winter wasteland that no longer looks like a winter wonderland. As a view the non-existence of anything white I reminisce about other times I found myself involved with winter survival.
One year was 1962. Everyone around me was proud and happy to be living in a nation of prosperity and hope. We had just elected Camelot and my mother was proud to wear what looked like an upside down box on her head in order to align herself with the wife of Jack Kennedy.
My father was watching the small black and white television that had become the center of our universe. Sunday afternoon was his time because the New York Giants were finally going to defeat their archrivals The San Francisco 49ers.
This made total sense because everyone knew that New York was the Empire State and all this talk about the west coast taking over the popularity of the country was hogwash. At least that is what my father used to say.
I used to like watching football with my father. He used to tell me that I was destined to play the sport. This was probably true because I was an over-sized 12-year old kid.
My mother used to call me husky. My friends always called me fat. Actually I didn’t care because back in those days being big was in. Dieting was a term one never heard of and the concept of anorexia nervosa had not been invented yet.
It had been snowing pretty hard for the past few days. Later on I found out that the winter of 1962, had been one of our more difficult in that it dumped more snow on our upstate New York home than any other winter that went before.
I didn’t care because I was warm and literally had no place I had to go. Except of course for the paper route I had to complete. Back in those days anyone who was anyone had a paper route.
One could judge one’s popularity by how many papers they had to deliver. I was proud to say that I was responsible for 83 houses getting the news of the day.
Every morning before the sun came up I would wake up and wrap myself warm in every type of sweater and scarf known to mankind.
I would wear my favorite Roy Roger’s stocking cap with a picture of Trigger in front and slide into a full body snowsuit made of the type of material that repelled anything that closely resembled something wet.
Of course, before I put on the snowsuit I would wear a couple of pairs of pants and one of my favorite Howdy Doody sweatshirts that had a big picture of the famous redhead waving hello like he did everyday at 3:30 pm.
Even my underwear had some sort of an emblem on them or at least I hoped they did. After I wrapped myself in enough protective gear to ward of a nuclear attack I walked downstairs quietly so that I would not wake up my parents.
I know my mother was always awake because every now and then I would see her peek into the kitchen as I put on my boots. Even though I knew I was tough and didn’t need her help anymore I let
her check up on me because I knew it made her feel good. Hell, it also made me feel good.
The hardest things to put on were my boots. This was probably true because after all the layers of clothes I was wearing I couldn’t bend down in order to put them on my feet.
Of course being overweight didn’t help but after a couple of minutes of wheezing and huffing I got them over my toes and onto my feet. The rest was real easy because they closed with five black small clamps.
I knew they were secure because they would make a sharp snapping sound as I bent the black metal over the clasp. I was now ready to save the world by allowing my clients to know that communism was evil and the American way was destined to take over the world.
The toughest part about my paper route was that it was a couple of blocks away from my house. Ralphee the snotter owned the paper route that my house was in.
Nobody dared ask him to trade because if they did he would put his slimed mittoned hand to the bottom of his nose and show you why he was called Ralphee the snotter.
Everyone also knew for a fact that if any of Ralphee’s slime ever touched any part of your clothes they would immediately sizzle off. This is the primary reason I didn’t mind the walk to my route.
It took me about 10 minutes to get to the corner where my papers were stacked. They were tightly wrapped in a wire so that they would not blow away.
In my paper bag that was made of a gray canvas that had the faded name of the paper on its side I always kept my wire cutter. The wire cutter was the most important tool any paperboy could have.
I only forgot it once and because of this I was damned to unravel the wire so that I could free the papers. This, of course, created deep cuts in my fingers but there was nothing in existence that could stop me from delivering the news to my clients.
My route was interesting because it looped around the four streets of that particular neighborhood. The papers were delivered at the corner where all four streets met. Because of this I was able to load up enough papers to deliver one street at a time and not have to backtrack my way back.
Sometimes if the papers were small I would carry a couple of streets worth of papers together and cut through a yard that also connected the streets. On this particular morning I decided to do just that.
Back in those days the classic image of a paperboy delivering his papers was a skinny freckled boy on a bike throwing the papers so that they landed on the porch of the house.
Needless to say I was not an example of this particular icon. I tried riding my bike once carrying the papers in my bag when all of a sudden one of the straps that held the bag got caught in the wheel and over the handlebars I flew.
I later found out that I had just demonstrated Newton’s First Law of Motion. I also never attempted that routine again.
I preferred the hands on approach. I would go up to each door, carefully open the storm doors and slide the paper in between the storm door and the regular door.
This may sound easy to the unprofessional mind but one had to flip the paper at exactly the right velocity so that you could close the storm door and thus traps the paper.
If you were off by even a microsecond you were condemned to chase pieces of the paper down the street or get a call from one of your ex-clients because they had to do the same.
After I cut through the wires holding the stack of newspapers together I noticed that this particular issue was rather thin. Since it was a bit chilly outside and I was getting hungry like I did every time I took a breath of air.
I decided to double up on the papers and cut through the yards that separated the streets. At the time this seemed like a sound idea.
I ran through the route for the first street and then started to walk across the lawn that separated me from the rest of my route. The snows that covered the yard looked as though no one had walked on them.
They also made the yard look like it had a huge mountain range right in the middle of it. In fact, where there had once been a bit of a valley now stood a drift that brought back memories of the movie “Lawrence of Arabia”. I loved that movie and I hoped one day I would look like Peter O’Toole.
In my minds eye I imagined that I was attacking the evil Arabs over the large dunes that separated the good guys from the bad. In my bag was a secret that would eventually save the world but first I had to defeat every Arab that ever lived.
I then decided to not simply walk between the yards but to run through it like every American hero is supposed to do. I couldn’t believe what a great life I had. I was not only having fun but also making enough money so that I could but what I considered the ultimate of toys: The bowlematic”.
Then gravity took over. I discovered that the snow on top of the drifts was softer than I hoped it would be. It was so soft that it engulfed both of my boots to the point where they stopped but my head continued to move.
I started to curse Isaac Newton. Gravity then again raised its ugly head and took over in that my head become lower than my boots and my entire body became engulfed in the once seemingly harmless drift.
The first thing I should have thought about was not ever seeing my mother or father again. Not that I will probably die in this drift only to be discovered in May by someone who replaced me as paperboy for this neighborhood. What came to mind before anything else was how I was going to save my papers?
I immediately grabbed hold of the bag that held the papers and pushed up with all my might so that the papers would never have a chance to get wet.
I must have looked like some sort of a modern birdbath with my two arms standing straight up above the snow holding onto a bag that had the name of the newspaper printed on its side.
If I ever froze there that day I am sure a few birds would have visited and probably left something on the newspapers I was trying to save.
After a few seconds of looking up into the now brightening skies I made the decision to fight for my life instead of fighting for the survival of my papers. I threw the bag aside hoping that after I free myself from this carnivorous drift I could work out a way to get my papers back.
I then started to force my entire body to roll. I figured with all the weight I had I did not have a chance of righting myself so I decided to do the next best thing.
At first I couldn’t move but then I heard the snow give way and my body actually started to roll down the drift. My rolling body made the sound a snowman makes when he is being constructed.
I then wondered if at the end of my journey some young child might find me engulfed in a ball of snow and decide to put a carrot in the middle for my nose and some rocks for my eyes.
I then made the decision that I didn’t want to become a snowball but there was nothing I could do about it because gravity had once again reared its ugly head and did not allow me to stop rolling down the hill.
All I could do after that was scream. Maybe someone would hear my cries even though it was well before 7 in the morning. Before I could push out my most terrifying anguished yell I stopped rolling.
At first I wondered if I was dead but then I looked up and saw the silhouette of something staring down at me. Could this be God? Why did he look like one of my clients?
“Is there something wrong with you kid?”
That was a rotten thing for God to say especially to someone who was about to visit him. As soon as I shook the snow from my eyes I discovered that the body in front of me, which stopped my death fall was old Mr. Butler.
He was and now was definitely one of my favorite clients even though his Christmas bonus consisted of some old card someone else got him with a single dollar bill stuffed inside it.
He then picked me up, or at least tried to, shook the snow off me and then asked where his paper was. I pointed to the middle of the snowdrift I just destroyed in the middle of his yard. He again looked down at me and simply shook his head.
I must have looked odd leaning against my shovel with a big smile on my face that day. As I attempted to catch my breath I came to the conclusion that no matter how bad the winter was there will soon be many memories attached to it. Memories one hopes to never forget.
Jim Fabiano is a teacher and writer living in York, Maine USA.
You can contact Jim at: firstname.lastname@example.org