WOSTER: Winter weather brings longing for ignoranceI seldom want to go back and live things over, but as the winter weather season approaches, I wouldn’t mind being 19 again and having no concept of what’s involved in a storm warning.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
I seldom want to go back and live things over, but as the winter weather season approaches, I wouldn’t mind being 19 again and having no concept of what’s involved in a storm warning.
Whenever we plan a highway trip during the winter season these days, I spend parts of each day in the week leading up to our departure studying the long-range forecasts and plotting alternate routes to our destination in the event of a sudden snowstorm. I don’t spend much time with a GPS, because those things usually try to route a person by the most direct set of highways.
I tend to calculate winter travel by the longest, most convoluted course imaginable. I consider buying some fencing tools, in case I have to cut and splice a barbed-wire fence to sneak through a pasture the way my dad used to do when spring rains made the main roads too soft to travel.
I’m generally a pretty optimistic guy (in spite of what you’re likely to hear from certain members of my family — like all of them, except maybe a few of the granddaughters), but when I’m planning a winter trip, I always expect the worst — and then double it just to make sure. The glass in winter is never half full or half empty. It’s always buried under mountains of drifted, hard-packed snow.
If I look at the forecast a week out and see a 20 percent change of precipitation for the day we’re scheduled to begin a trip, I pretty much figure we’ll either be canceling our plans or driving through blinding snow on ice-covered highways and peering off to the side for a glimpse of the shoulder line or a reflector post.
When I suggest to Nancy that we might as well call ahead and tell the relatives we won’t be making it next Tuesday or whenever, she laughs and says 20 percent means it will be sunny and warm. That’s just fine for her. She has someone to do the worrying for her.
Me, I’m stuck being the male version of Debbie Downer. It isn’t an easy role, but the great Director has to cast somebody for it, and I guess I’m it, in spite of — as I said earlier — my normally upbeat approach to life. That’s why it’s called acting, I guess.
I wasn’t always that way. Time was I didn’t give the weather two seconds of thought. I remember a Saturday evening in high school when nothing was moving on the city streets of Chamberlain except a gray, 1958 Chevrolet with me and Bill Miller and our girlfriends.
Why we were out, I can’t recall. I suppose because it was a Saturday night. Why any of our parents let us be out makes even less sense. They’re supposed to take care of their kids. What were they thinking?
I was driving. Bill, who came to town the previous summer when his dad moved up to work on the Big Bend Dam project, was a Florida kid whose idea of snow was white confetti at a shopping mall on an 80-degree day.
He wasn’t all that good at driving in snow, but he thought it was a hoot to be plowing through drifts and sliding up and down the streets. Occasionally, we’d slide into a drift too tough for the six-cylinder engine, and Bill and I would have to get out and push back into the ruts that passed for the street. He thought that was a hoot, too.
All through my college years, I never had a winter kit in a vehicle. There were times when Highway 34 between Lee’s Corner and the turn at Madison was pretty lonely. I never worried about stalling, sliding off the road or having an accident. I just traveled.
I grew up, though, and had kids. They grew old enough to go to college themselves, which is about the time I began to appreciate the importance of a well-stocked winter kit, a full tank of gas, extra blankets, boots and socks instead of boat shoes and bare feet, things like that.
My kids thought that was a hoot.
Terry Woster’s columns are published on Saturdays and Wednesdays in The Daily Republic.