Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sundays with Steve - Snow!

These Sunday's segments are written by my husband, Mr. Jenny. Here's what he has to say about his posts:

Since I’ve started writing “Sundays with Steve”, I’ve been thinking about vignettes of my life growing up in North Idaho. I realize the town where I grew up and the life I lived with my family is really a classic, all-American story. Perhaps you will recognize some of your childhood in these writings. And perhaps you will recognize the town you grew up in along with some of the characters you knew. Mrs. Steve has encouraged me to write these attempts of “creative writing” as opposed to the more factual journalistic style I was trained in and practiced in my early career many years ago. So my apologies if I stumble a bit here and there trying to blend the two styles together.

The Joys of Snow

The steep hill must have been miles long, the snow cold and joyous, the Radio Flyer sled one of the fastest on earth: Life was good to that ten-year old, nothing else mattered besides getting down that hill.

It was probably the same image most every kid in America had that winter and most winters -- what could be better than sledding on new fallen snow in the neighborhood? The images, the memories, are a bit different from reality of course, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was getting in as many runs down those hills as quickly as you could.

Our town was built on a series of benches, rising above the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers. The first bench, just one block from home, dropped steeply 250 feet or so down to the river bottom land below, where downtown was located and some adjacent industrial areas. That drop-off was perfect for sledding when the rare snow-fall hit.

Our town didn’t own a snow plow, but it did have a couple of beat-up dump trucks that spread sand on the slickest hills after the snow stopped falling. Until it spread that sand, the town would close the steep hill roads which would then be taken over by us, the neighborhood sledders, in all areas of the city. Those streets ran straight up the hillsides; with no curves to slow you down, your sled was a monster flying down the hills of town.

The hills were not miles long of course, but a couple of hundred yards at the most. When you are ten- years old and flying your Radio Flyer lickety split, it felt like a mile or more, it felt like the ride was going to go on forever.

We never got more than about six inches of snow in the heaviest of storms, and it never stuck around more than a few days at a time. I did a check the other day and saw that town averages about 18-inches of snow a year, what many of you get in a good winter storm. How can that be, you might ask? A town in the mountains of Idaho without much snow? Yes, it is an arid climate there, warm summers, moderate winters, less than eleven inches of precipitation a year, with the Cascade mountains 150 miles west blocking the winter storms off the Pacific. The town isn’t in the mountains, but in the rain shadow of the Cascades.

But when the snows came, and it always did at some point during the winter, the kids came out in droves, including me and my brothers.

While the hill road our in our neighborhood never got more than a dozen sledders at a time, the “big” hills in our town would host hundreds of kids in the morning after a good storm.

Our neighborhood hill, 11th Avenue where it dropped off Prospect to Snake River Avenue below, was one of the best in town for its steepness and for a local cop who would block a cross street at the bottom of the hill. The street was usually good for only a few hours of frantic, maybe even manic, sledding before the city truck would come along to spread sand on the road and ruin our sledding. The good news was that the hill was so steep that it was one of the first to be blocked to traffic, and also it was a secondary street, so it was one of the last to be sanded. We would get maximum sledding time before we lost the road to the city crews.

Once that happened, we would make the short walk home, change into dry clothing, hungrily drink hot cocoa, and beg my parents to drive us across the river to Clarkston and the steep hills of the golf course that would have hundreds of sledders looking for a fast ride on its hills.

Sledding in our town never lasted for more than about one day, maybe two, before it melted away. In later years, in teenage years, we would take trips out of town to the nearby mountains to experience sledding in deep snows on very long hills. The bravest of us would venture further afield to experience and master downhill skiing and other winter sports.

But in the earliest of days, after a good snowfall, our neighborhood was our joy, the snow was our joy, and nothing else mattered in those days of winter.

(c) 2010 Stephen J. Matlock
This publication is the exclusive property of Stephen J. Matlock and is protected
under the US Copyright Act of 1976 and all other applicable international, federal, state and local laws. The contents of this post/story may not be reproduced as a whole or in part, by any means whatsoever, without consent of the author, Stephen J. Matlock. All rights reserved.


Jojo said...

Mr. & Mrs. Jenny,

Down south these were images kids like me could only dream about. The part of Georgia that I'm from is flat and when I say flat, I mean flat. Once, in 1973 we had accumulated snow - 12 inches of it!

Anonymous said...

Green Springs had a huge hill...still does but I don't think kids today go out much :(
The hill was about 1/4 mile long...bending halfway and then the straightway to the bottom...
When my mom was a kid she was with her friends...sledding...she was on the bottom...2 other girls on top...after the bend, picking up speed, she couldn't straighten the sled out...slammed into a mailbox that was held into place by a cement block...12 hours later emergency surgery to have her spleen removed... oh the hill has many stories...Bob B. would close the general store down for a while and load the kids in his pickup truck and take them back to the top of the hill...some brave souls would tie their sleds to the bumper and be pulled up :) those were the days :)
Happy New Year Steve :)

Anonymous said...

We never got a lot of snow in Virginia either. When we did get snow, everything would shut down and turn into a winter wonderland.

Pondside said...

That took me back! For a time, from age 10-14 we lived in the snow belt of Southern Ontario. Winter afternoons, 'til dark, were spent digging forts in snow banks and sliding down hills. We'd use whatever we had - toboggans were the most popular as we could get four or five on a good one. A garbage can lid was a super flying saucer, ensuring a wild and uncontrolled ride. We'd slide until we could hardly walk back up hill.

Bossy Betty said...

Thank you so much for these memories! I was a sledder as a kid! There was nothing like the feeling of having a good run down a fresh hill of snow.

Anonymous said...

This was a great story and sledding looks like so much fun. I have never been any place where one could sled. I have built a few snowmen and joined in on a few snowball fights. Thanks, Steve for sharing your stories.

Grandma Yellow Hair said...

What a nice surprise to find this story tonight. I really felt like I was back in your town trying to go down the hillside. lol
Growing up here in Texas I can only imagine the fun you did have back then.
Great writing

Pat Tillett said...

Great memories!
I've never lived where it snowed, while I was old enough to enjoy it.
Now I don't want to...
Love this series!

Annesphamily said...

Wonderful memories! Growing up in Colorado and still here all these years later I have had my share of snow and as a kid I loved it. Not so much these days but it is very beautiful and there are lots of steep hills around here and we see kids sledding when we get a good snow storm. Thanks for sharing. Anne

Judie said...

Steve, since I grew up in Atlanta, I rarely saw more than 4 inches of snow at a time until I moved to Chicago! When we did have any accumulation in Atlanta, we slid down hills in our yards on cardboard, or in laundry baskets! Sleds were foreign to us! Before Rod moved to the states when he was nine, he had lots of snow in the winters in Edmonton! He went skiiing and ice skating all winter long!!