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It’s snow fun anymore

The earliest winters I remember were spent in the neighborhood where we lived until I was in third or fourth grade. Our streets weren’t plowed after a snowfall, instead, most people had chains on their tires to aid traction on the streets which soon became slick with packed snow. Many of the older boys indulged themselves with a free ride, belly-flopping with their sleds onto the road behind a passing car and grabbing the rear bumper to be towed at a fast clip for blocks at a time. This dangerous practice was discouraged, and the city regularly closed off a few streets with good sledding hills, creating some safe and satisfactory coasting runs in the various neighborhoods. There were also the unpaved alleys which bisected nearly every block in town. These provided traffic-free runs except for the bottom of the hill where the alley ended abruptly at a cross-street.
Aside from sledding, there were plenty of other activities to keep us moving on snowy days. When we were restless from being cooped up too long in the house, Mother often suggested a game of Fox and Geese, the rules of which were never quite clear to me. It was played on a wagon-wheel shaped course that we created by trampling down the snow in a great circle, then bisecting it again and again like a huge pie. The center, I seem to remember was a safe zone, one player was the Fox (or “It”) and the rest, the Geese, avoided capture by staying out of reach along the radii and rim of the wheel. I never quite understood just what the purpose of the game was— and I don’t remember ever playing a game through to any kind of conclusion. Probably, we expended our excess energy in stomping down all that snow and were soon tired enough to stay in the house and play quietly with our paper dolls.
We built snowmen, of course, and snow forts which always led to snowball fights or more aggressive activities such as rubbing snow in each other’s faces or putting snow down the back of someone’s jacket. These cruelties usually ended the fun and games and everybody was ordered back into the house and made to do some sort of penance, such as dusting the dining room furniture or hauling all the empty jars and bottles to the basement. By suppertime, all would be forgotten and forgiven and we might be allowed back outdoors to build an arsenal of snowballs while we awaited Dad’s arrival home from work. I always suspected that Mother phoned and warned him of our preparations, as he was usually prepared for our attacks, armed and ready to return fire.
A few years later when we lived on an acreage near the edge of town, we were within walking distance of the country club where the snow-shrouded golf course offered abundant sweeping hills, unencumbered by the hazards to be found in our cow pasture, such as frozen cow pies and deadly Canadian thistles. And then there was Avery’s hill.
Avery’s hill was the perfect place for safe sledding in our neighborhood. What is now Highway 5 on the east side of Knoxville marked the end of the residential area on that side of town. Three streets, one of them unpaved, ended at the highway, all running down the giddily steep hill that began nearly two blocks to the west. Those streets, usually unplowed in winter, made exhilarating runs for sleds, but because they ended abruptly at the highway, even the most daring of us preferred the welcoming safety of Avery’s yard. This huge lawn extended nearly the whole block, down a thrillingly steep hill that leveled off just in time to allow us to coast slowly to a dead stop mere yards before reaching the highway.
Their family was grown, but all the neighboring young people were welcome with their sleds and skis any time there was sufficient snow for winter frolicking. By more or less unspoken agreement, shovels, boards, large chunks of heavy cardboard boxes, and other materials appeared and participants pitched in for building breathtaking jump-offs, packing the snow for smoother runs, creating our own venue for winter Olympics and a safer “baby hill” for the youngest of the neighborhood sledders.
When my debut into adulthood introduced a different set of problems, I soon formed an entirely different outlook toward snowy winter days. I found myself facing things like shoveling snow off the front steps and walks, scraping ice off the windshield of my car, shivering as I waited for the car heater to warm up, getting stuck in my own driveway because I backed up too far trying to turn around. I learned the difference between PLAYING in the snow and DEALING with the snow. Like most children, I never saw it coming, and now I’ve reached the conclusion that snow was invented strictly for children.