Battlefield Snowball and the Fort

It's not really winter unless you got snow, and it's not really fun until you've hucked your first snowball. That's right, snow... soft, fluffy, white, "melts in your mouth and in your hands," nature's ready-made water-flavored desert... and yet it makes for the best fire power around. The art of the perfect snowball has been passed down over generations--we all know you got to melt them a little in your hands to make them crystallize nice and hard, and that you got to make a few dozen of them to stockpile behind your obligatory snow fort...etc.

We all remember that energizing feeling you get when you thought you weren't going to last twenty minutes out there in the icy wind and then somehow went four hours in change, when you're actually starting to shed layers because you're all worked up... when your hands, ears, and cheeks are beet red, and your clothes soaked, but you go on hucking at the ramparts anyways because... well, it's wintertime damnit and there's fun to be had. That, and you got to nail that other kid who just got you in the back of the neck! The weak spot!

When you first step out on the crunchy white of the backyard, it was like setting the first line of footprints on the moon or some high tundra place where nothing but the neighbor's cat has ever been. Oh the joy it was to be in it up to your hip! Then by the end of the day, after all the shots have been fired and your mittens and boots are soaked right through, not a single patch of even snow exists anywhere. The battlefield sure was a hallowed spot by the end of the day, scarred by the scorch of twenty thousand footprints and a few pairs of mittens. They'll be found in the spring, along with that shoe of yours that came loose at some point. (We boys have a knack for losing shoes and not even realizing it).

Second only to throwing snow was eating it, and like I said earlier, snow was a real treat... piquant, crunchy at times like you had to swirl it around in your mouth to get it to melt... but the best stuff was the powdery fluff that dusted up in your mouth and stuck to the sides before melting down. It was like cotton candy. Then there were icicles, which were a delicacy... you crack them off whatever they're hanging on, and suck on them like a Popsicle. If they hung from a wooden porch, they were wood flavored (pine was the best). If they hung from a gutter, they could've killed you. If they hung from a car's tailpipe... they would've killed you. But then again, you know the rules: "white and clear ain't so severe, but grey and be an idiot." That's a lesson for the kids.

I believe it was 1994 and we got hammered by this massive snowstorm. We shoveled so much snow off the driveway that it made a really nice snow pile, nay, snow mountain, up against the fence. It got so large that my brother and I tunneled out the center and made our own snow fortress or "igloo" big enough to fit three kids. The Inuits really have the right idea because you'd be surprised how warm it is surrounded by snowpack. I remember we fashioned a little snow bench on the inside and everything. It was so cool that had I not fallen through the roof a few days later (having decided to get up on top of it), I'd like to think it could've been my first bachelor pad.

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