Snow has had a tremendous influence on my life. As a kid growing up on a farm in central New York, we lived in the country and in a snow belt. In the winter, snow controlled our lives. We could count on getting snowed in from two days to two weeks.
School had snow days in the schedule and would be closed. Many days our road would not be plowed, so we would ski out to go sledding or tobogganing or stay inside. The sun went down early, so the nights were also long, and this was before TV. There was a lot of time for crafts, puzzles, games, cards and family time.
I do not remember my father participating, but Mom was wonderful. She taught me to knit, to sew, to loom potholders, to play all kinds of games and puzzles and most of all to read. More importantly she taught me to enjoy reading. I still can be very happy doing all these things that helped me get through the winter.
A friend of mine was recently in a knitting class, and when I told her I used to knit and make booties for all my nieces and nephews and potholders for my sisters, neighbors, family and friends she was astounded. Mom also taught me to be willing to write and that it was OK for a boy to write. I did some writing and wrote poetry at a young age, but we are supposed to be talking about snow here.
You had to go on Slate Hill Road to get to my sister Marion’s house, and it ran north and south. Since the prevailing wind was from the west, the road would fill up regularly. I have seen snow banks as high as 18 feet. The banks were so firm that we would carve steps to climb over them to go tobogganing on the other side of the hill.
There was nothing as exhilarating as sledding, tobogganing or skiing on a clear, crisp, sunny day with new snow. When I was older, I discovered the same exhilaration going night skiing after a new snow when there was a full moon. The slopes were not lit, but the moon on fresh snow made it as light as day. They kept a rope tow open until 10 p.m. My memory is still vivid of standing on top of a hill ready to launch down but reveling in the sight of clean new snow and the feel of the cold crisp air.
Driving in the snow could be dangerous. In college I took three fraternity brothers home for the weekend for dates with girls at Syracuse University. On our way back to school I was driving too fast. We were taking a long curve on an icy road and started to slide. The car crossed the oncoming lane and did a 360-degree turn before hitting a hard snow bank. We bounced off the snow bank. Since we had done a 360-degree turn, we were still headed in the right direction, so I continued on to school. I did wash my laundry after I got back to school, and I am sure my fraternity brothers did, too.
I met my first wife while skiing. I was dating a girl named Sandy. She was a Pi Phi at Cornell. She had never skied before, so I volunteered to take her. While playing bridge at her sorority one evening, I announced that we had room in the car if anyone else wanted to go. A girl by the name of Carolyn Mulliner said she would like to go, and off the three of us went. Carolyn was from Utah and had skied a lot. When we got to the ski area, all of us went to the rental area. After getting Sandy equipped, I went off with her to the bunny slope and Carolyn went off to the lifts. I left Sandy with an instructor and came back to the lifts to start my day of skiing.
As I was waiting in line who should be coming off the hill with two ski patrol escorts but Carolyn with her head taped? She had fallen and her ski tip had cut her forehead. She was bleeding. I followed them to the medical tent and after she was patched up, I asked her if she was going to ski some more and she said, “I think not!” Being the good guy that I was, I asked her if she wanted to have a drink and she said yes. We went over to the lodge and drank, and we watched Sandy on the beginner’s slope. After a while it was evident that Sandy was getting tired, so I gathered her up and we had some lunch before we headed home. On the way, we stopped at my home because the college girls, mostly from the city, always enjoyed the rustic farm atmosphere and Mom’s cooking. Dad was always at his best with guests. He could regale them with stories about the farm.
I implied that Sandy and I were an item, but that was not true. Sandy was really just a friend because she and her family were strong Catholics and in those days she could not be serious about dating a Protestant. My mom constantly reminded me that my grandfather would roll over in his grave if I were serious about a relationship with a Catholic, so we were not meant to be anything but close friends. Sandy and I never went out together again, and two weeks later Carolyn and I started dating. Four months later we were married.
When I graduated from law school, snow again became an issue. I was offered a job practicing law in my hometown in the snow belt, and I was offered a job teaching at Cornell where I would also stay in the snow belt. I had an education which I felt meant that I could make a living wherever I wanted to, and I was quite sure that I did not want to live in an area where there was snow. I called Roger Strand, a friend who graduated the year before me at Cornell Law and who had moved to Phoenix. I asked him two questions: “Do you enjoy living in Phoenix?” and “Can I find a job there?”
He answered both my questions with a “Yes,” and even though I had never been there, I packed up and moved to Phoenix the day I graduated from law school. I have never once regretted that move. I can visit places with snow, and I do, and enjoy them, but I will never again live where there is snow.