I think I have just woken up from my winter hibernation.
As I write this Sunday, there is still snow on Brown Mountain and the wood stove is greatly appreciated. But I’ve definitely felt spring in the air. I heard birdsong as I awoke, and the frogs in our pond were croaking. When I went out to let the chickens out, I saw that the frogs had been busy. The pond is full of clusters of eggs. I will collect a gob or two to take to school for our next unit on “life cycles.” Frog eggs and tadpoles are great. I think we will be safe to keep the eggs over the break because they will not be too big. One year I took eggs in and gave them to all the K-2 teachers to help with their science lessons; the next year, Principal Arlin Middleton reminded the teachers to put the aquariums with tadpoles outside before they left on break. That was because during spring break the year before, all the tadpoles had become little frogs. They hopped out of the aquariums and were all over that end of the hall, dead and stinking.
I know this year’s February has truly been “winter,” and the last few weeks have been hard to take; I don’t know if it’s been as bad as in times past. I keep hearing people say ”I’m sure tired of cold and snow and ready for spring.”
Try to remember how in January we were complaining about no snow – saying things like, “I wish we would just have a big one.” Last week’s back-to-back snows were real nice and I bet there will be more.
I remember when I was a kid watching a news program about a spring blizzard. The snow was deep. People trying to get hay to the cows in the field. It was calving time, and the program showed great big boys hiking with hay bales on their backs to lay down enough hay to make a bed for the calves as well as for the cows to eat. That may have been in Texas, but to me it was next door.
Tom and I were remembering the Januarys of 1976 and 1977 that were so cold. I think schools were closed for the whole month in 1977. I was stranded in Bryson City between jobs and became the handyman around the community. I hauled people to and from work in Daddy’s jeep.
One winter I was even stopped by one local policeman because he thought I looked like Patty Hearst. I was wearing jeans, boots and a denim jacket; my hair was in a shag; and I had not used that spray on bleach in a while, so it was just kind of brown. That officer and I laughed when he remembered me and noticed I didn’t look any thing like Patty.
I “fixed” a drip in the bathroom and caused the pipes to freeze. I stayed a little while with Lynn at Rock Bridge, but it was just a little too much for me. The drain in the kitchen sink froze first. We had the water dripping so it wouldn’t freeze. It didn’t, at least at first. Water filled the sink and ran onto the floor, freezing a couple of inches deep and staying that way for the month, even with a hot fire in the cookstove. I slept in a little room with another stove we kept banked during the night. I had so many covers on the bed that I had to get out of bed to turn over. After the water from the spring finally froze, Lynn ran a black pipe over the ground and in through a window into the sink after we thawed the drain using an electric heater. I gave up and went back to Bryson. Lynn is much tougher.
The next January, 1978, I was working for Jackson County Schools. I can’t remember having many days with kids but we had lots of work days. On one of those, I decided we needed to plump up the bean bags that we positioned the children with – most of the kids in that class had significant physical disabilities and we used bean bags to give them a change from their wheelchairs. I had ordered Styrofoam beads to add to the flattened bean bags. I didn’t think to read the instructions and started unzipping the old bags. For some reason, the little beads came out in clouds flying all over the room and stuck to the ceiling and walls. They were there when we moved out in 1995.
Then there was the winter of 1981 before Angi was born. Our pipes froze but we had a little spring next to the house and I could carry water to use in the house. One snow day when I was home, the sun came out and started melting the snow and I heard a “pssssss” sound, meaning that the pipes had thawed and were leaking. I knew that the leaks might drain the reservoir, which would mean the pipes could freeze again. I thought “Where are the inner tubes?” I found our plumbing supplies, inner tubes and scissors, and began cutting strips to put around the pipes. I crawled under the old house, and began wrapping the pipes. I had to lay on my back and scoot. When I finished the pipes, I could not move. I was eight months pregnant, extra bulky with all the layers I had on to stay warm, and I was stuck between the pipe and ground. I cursed and cried and wiggled out of my coat, vowing to “let it freeze.”
That same winter, on Feb. 12, I started labor in the middle of the night. Tom got up and worked to start the old bronco with the tin roof and open sides to take us down the mountain. Thank goodness I was in labor and didn’t know that it was below zero. We went down the mountain and transferred to our car to go to the hospital. Labor and Delivery nurse Wanda Stephens called Dr. Nash – and he came as soon as he thawed his pipes.
In January 1985, Will was born on the coldest day in recorded history around here – 26 below. Dr. Nash’s pipes froze again. I got to stay in the hospital a couple more days because the temperature stayed below zero.
As we passed our chicken coop on our drive home, I noticed the chickens were still on the roost. They had frozen. Now that was cold.
Then there was the blizzard of 1993. The snow was deep enough for the kids to make tunnels all over the mountain. Will’s friend Topher was stranded up here, and the two of them had the best time sledding and skiing, and building snow forts and snow men. The kids didn’t seem to suffer that there was no television or lights. We were without power for more than a week. We emptied the refrigerator and put it all outside the door in a snow drift. That worked. We put quilts around the freezer in the basement, and that worked, too.
We have had some other big snows and cold weather that make this last bit look pretty tame.
I use my leave on work days now, which means I don’t hike down the mountain to slide down Johns Creek, but I sort of liked doing it then. I really enjoyed my days home last week – it was like practicing for retirement.
Pretty soon I’ll head out to the pond to gather frog eggs. If you need any, give me a ring.