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Harris Blackwood: Snow days meant sled rides, snowball duels and lost mittens
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Sledders make their way up the hill at Memorial Drive Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, after a morning in the snow at nearby City Park in Gainesville. - photo by Scott Rogers

I remember the year Santa brought us a sled. I don’t think it snowed that year or the next.

But when the time finally arrived that we had enough frozen precipitation to take it for a spin, we had a blast.

Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

It was one of those great wooden sleds with metal runners. It had a rope that would allow a little bit of steering.

Being the younger of two boys, I sat up front and my brother, Dixon, wrapped himself around me. I don’t ever remember being allowed to take the controls.

There was just something wonderful about playing in the snow. I don’t know if kids today get as excited as we did about those few snow days. When I am driving around after the roads are cleared, I often look for kids playing outside in the snow. I don’t see it very often. I hope they are not inside playing video games.

Mama made sure we were dressed warmly. Going out in the snow meant putting on a pair of long handles (thermal underwear) and thick socks and a coat. My mother thought that the most important thing was having a good stocking hat on your head.

We also wore gloves or mittens. If you went out with a pair of gloves and came home with one, it was a pretty good day.

The old sled was stored in the rafters of the barn and generally required a ladder to retrieve it. If we couldn’t get the ladder, we would then opt for substitute sledding gear, such as a trashcan lid. I ruined the handle on many a galvanized trashcan in my day.

Also a part of the day was throwing snowballs at each other. I don’t know if you would call it a snowball fight; it was just using the element of surprise to land a good one at each other.

Scraping snow off the car or off of the porch railing was the best place to get a good thick handful that would pack together just enough to hit the other person and explode.

The other trick we engaged in was getting a handful of snow and putting it down the other’s back. Oh, how we would squirm as that frozen stuff trickled down our back.

My brother was 4 years older than me. He was better at sports and was a heck of a good horseback rider. Playing in the snow was one of those times it was just the two of us, and while I was the younger, I could sling a pretty good snowball or hang with him on a sled ride.

I had to move a handful of snow off the car this week. I started to make it into a snowball, but realized that I had nowhere for it to go. It made me miss him.

You see, it was 10 years ago this week that we lost him to a battle with a brain tumor. Sometimes it seems like it was 10 minutes ago.

A few years from now, I’m hoping for a snowy day when I can take that forthcoming grandboy of mine out in the snow and show him how Pa and his brother used to play in that white drifty stuff.

He won’t know it, but he will be helping me relive some of the greatest moments of this life.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident; email.

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