Thursday, February 05, 2015

Snow Forts and Memories

On a recent walk around the block, I encountered three boys building a complex of snow forts in the front yard. My first thought was, "You mean kids still build snow forts?" It brought back memories of all the dramas we superimposed on the landscape I ranged over as a kid.

Within those protective walls, we'd have stacks of snowballs ready to hurl at any who dared attack. My free-range childhood territory included windswept fields where the observatory's facilities crews would erect snowfences to keep snow from blowing over the sidewalks. Snow would gather in drifts five feet deep on the lee side of the fences, perfect for excavating and augmenting, following much the same impulse as the gophers that were hibernating in the ground below.

Like hunting, which I really enjoyed until I actually killed something, our building of the snowy equivalent of a Maginot Line was fun until war actually broke out. There was one traumatic day when our fort complex was attacked, by a couple college students who penetrated the flurry of snowballs and proceeded to destroy our carefully crafted fort. Those were some big bullies.

Here was the other scene during the walk around the block that brought back memories. Start with a small clump of snow, push it across the grass, gathering snow with each revolution. When the snowball was too big to budge any further, we knew where the snowman or the fort would stand. There's a metaphor in there somewhere, that we are snowballs, making tracks through time, experiences sticking to us as we go, gaining character, or at least characteristics, until we find ourselves outstanding, or at least out standing, in a field.


  1. cindy.carlin@verizon.net2/07/2015 9:48 PM

    I have to thank you for this post. My dad used to tell anyone who would listen that a cousin of ours was a professor of agriculture at Princeton. When questioned, he would always say, "it must be true; his mother always says he is outstanding in his field. My dad has been gone 10 years this week. I forwarded your post to my 95 year old mom who replied, it made me smile while I wiped away a tear. So thank you again for post which touched us in a different way than you had intended.

    1. Thank you for letting me know. I send these posts out, like messages in a bottle, never knowing where the currents may take them.

      My dad would tell stories like that, too. In fact, there were two, which he'd launch into when we had company. One was about some bulls that head down the road, and ended with the punch line "A little bull goes a long way." The other was about two golfers, one of whom kept warning the other that he'd get struck dead by lightening if he kept using profanity every time he made a bad shot. When the bolt of lightening finally comes from on high, it strikes the wrong man dead, prompting God to utter the one word punch line. My dad actually was a professor, but the farm he grew up on stayed with him, and got into me a bit, too.