By George Hill – Weyburn, Sask.
When I look back to my childhood, I cannot believe that I could hardly wait for the arrival of winter!
The end of the fall season – with all its colour, the crispness in the air, and the smell of burning leaves – was about to give way to the most exciting season of all. Yes, winter, with beautiful and enchanting scenes of hoarfrost and billows of soft white snow, and the plumes you made while just breathing.
I was vibrating with excitement waiting to get out of the house and dive into all that winter was going to bring to me. With the arrival of winter, there was the other glorious event – Christmas – and the holidays from school and freedom to be outside!
As a child, I may not have known that it was essential to get outside, and that it was essential to the sanity of my family that I do!
Cars were pretend tanks
Getting out there for me was so darned worth it, even on a cold day, to do things like taking my toboggan and crawling under the freight trains in the rail yard to get to the hill. Or building snow forts and assailing everyone walking down the street (including neighbours). Even pretending cars driving down the street were enemy tanks – coming to attack me and my friends in our fortifications. And the snowball fights with the kids on the next block!
Best of all was waiting in ambush for the milkman. He was due to pass by a certain point, six days a week, and I could certainly depend on that. This was more fun than getting some unsuspecting kid to lick his cap gun outside in the cold, and then watch him run home again for the third time that week.
The whole idea was to set up a diversion so my pals could get in a key position ready to bumper shine the milk wagon. It was my job to create the threat while they were doing this. I really don’t think any of this mattered much at all because I suspect the milkman kind of appreciated the company in some way while completing his route.
Of course, we never snowballed the milkman’s horse. Everyone in the neighbourhood loved that old horse. We were just creating the diversion after all, after which we would join the joy ride. It was a slow motion thrill we never grew tired of all winter long. However, there were a few things to be aware of.
Avoiding barnyard odours
We were never going to get anywhere fast with that old horse stopping every few doors down the street, and we had to be ready for those dry manhole covers in the centre of the street, so we wouldn’t wind up doing a face plant.
The thing to watch out for was road apples. These appeared quickly from under the milk wagon, and we had to be skillful in dodging these, not allowing any trace on your gumboots, sewer jacket, or even your laced-up breeks.
Getting home for supper without any faint barnyard odours, which we would almost certainly be criticized for, was definitely the objective here.
Some days I wonder if those kids from Seventh Street ever once pause and remember some of these things we did in our old neighbourhood and I wonder whether or not it brings a smile to their faces. These memories help this senior in abiding winter, even to this day!