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KIRK: 'Old-school' winter

So far, this winter has been unusually laden with snow that doesn't go away between snowstorms. What we have here is an "old school" winter.

Of all the winters my husband and I have seen together, most of them have been dry, mild, and unusually un-winter like. After the most recent big snows we've received, this year reminds me of the winters of my childhood.

It's probably been a good 25, 30 years since this area has had the kind of winter you can sink your pickup chains into. This winter has some teeth, because it's sure had a bite to it, with deep snow after snow and bitter cold temperatures.

Growing up, snow basically stuck around from October until April before melting. Back then snow was more widely accepted. It was considered typical of the Black Hills' winter season more so than it is these days. Complaining about winter was never a part of the season because seeing a lot of snow for so many months was assumed and normal.

Back in the 70s and 80s I didn't complain. I just knew I needed to have a good pair of bread sacks that didn't have any holes to keep my socks dry, my moon boots, the stocking cap that always made my forehead itch, mittens attached with a string and run through my coat sleeves so I didn't lose them, a dry coat and dry snow pants. These were vital things I needed to have laid out the night before school because I needed them for when my brothers and I trudged down the hill to the bus stop for school and for trudging back up the hill after school.

Once I started driving my own bus to school (I had to give my brothers a ride), I incorporated all the snow affiliated precautions: winter driving awareness, additional weight in the back, a shovel, jumper cables, a blanket, or just calling up Dad — usually for a tow. Sometimes instead of calling him, because there were no cell phones back then, I'd walk up the hill to get him at his shop. I'd explain that my massively long, non-winter savvy 1977 Monte Carlo had slid sideways, blocking the entire road half way up our hill. I had plenty of old school winter days looking out a windshield at the back end of my dad's pickup, watching the tow rope and snow peeling in my direction as he pulled my worthless wagon up the hill to our driveway.

It's been a long time since I've heard the sound of an old school winter—the "ching, ching, ching" of chains on four wheel drive pickups or the "Whirr" of studded snow tires. Remember studded snow tires? I haven't smelled an old school winter in a long time either. That metallic smell of melting clots of snow stuck to woolen mittens as they dried on the old school cast iron radiators in the corner of the classroom after recess.

For the last couple of decades old school style winters haven't been around much. It's been a long time since we've had enough snow to make a decent snowman, snow angel, or pile of snow from clearing off the driveway that kids could play on. Heck, it's been a long time that plowing our road was necessary to get out. It appears that this year, Black Hills winters have been born again, with the baptism of retro snowfall we've consistently been doused with so far this year.

In carrying out the theme of retro winters, I've revived old school winter traditions this year also — using an old fashioned scoop shovel to regularly remove snow.

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