Spring in our part of the country, with piles and piles of ice and accumulated snow, with the arrival of warmer temperatures opens the door to one of my favorite things as a child (and still as an adult), water. Lots and lots of water.
Puddles began to form, ice broke up, rivulets trickled down through the ice and into the gutters than became little streams that gathered and formed little creeks. It was these little rivulets and streams that fascinated me. I had a non-stop quest to control the water. I'd make little dams and create little lakes, or I'd work to release penned up water from it's frozen captor and watch the puddle disappear.
I had this crazy relationship with water. I was also fascinated with fire... but that's for a whole other day. There must be something very primal about an attraction to fire and to water.
On any given day full of sun and melting snow, I would return from my romping around the neighborhood a cold wet dripping mess... a HAPPY cold wet dripping mess... but a cold wet dripping mess nonetheless.
The first line of defense (the most IMPORTANT piece of survival gear) while out playing in the water, was a good pair of boots. Not just any boots would work. Almost anything fabric-wise back in the 70's and 80's was worthless for keeping water away from your feet. The ONLY acceptable boot was a pair of galoshes. Leak-proof galoshes. No holes, no cracks, tightly buckled galoshes. With three boys in our family, I bet we had 8 pair of galoshes in our basement. Every year, I'd have to try on a new pair... working my way up through the hand-me-downs from my brothers, hoping that the pair that would fit me that year didn't have any worn through points or loosened seams. Most of the time, there was at LEAST one pinhole leak SOMEWHERE in one boot.
The other item that went with the galoshes is an odd item, but an item that any person from our part of the country that grew up with these kind of black rubber boots knows all-to-well, and that's the plastic bread bags that you'd put over your stockinged foot. [Quick customization point - if your galoshes were a half-size or a size too big, you'd put on a couple pairs of socks, maybe even a thick wool sock. And if the boots were borderline too small, you'd wear only a thin pair of socks. Pretty logical stuff.]
So comfortable socks, then covered with a bread bag, then into the galoshes. More often then not, I'd tuck the jeans into the galoshes. Failure to follow this step would lead to jeans that would wick up enough water to darken them to at least my knees. Cold legs = cold miserable JT who, within a couple of days, was likely to be sick.
Besides galoshes, the other items one would want to be sure to wear are a good hat (which almost immediately upon frolicking about in the sun, will be taken off and placed somewhere that would be immediately be forgotten) and a decent pair of gloves or mittens (also which would likely get removed and lost immediately).
The parading about and finding my next aquatic adventure in my waterproof gear was often short-lived as the first body of water I came across was FULL of potential for things that I'd want to do. As mentioned before, it was usually trying to figure out some way to drain the pool of water that had collected. I would often be at the end of our driveway with an ice chipper and a shovel or two just trying to chip away at the ice dam on the downward side of the flow.... and I'd get a little trickle started into something bigger that would of course drive me to make that flow bigger and bigger.
There were times the flow of water would lead my curiosity downstream to the bigger and bigger streams and pool... like I was some sort of liberation army on a mission of freeing the water from the confines of our little town. Usually that path was back to the gully that ran east to west from up by the LeMair place (later where Gene Hunt built a new house) just north of Bunker Hill. Fields from the east of the Lutheran Cemetery all drained down to a pond by their place than then overflowed in the spring and during storms down along the valley of the pasture behind Hammer's, Moe's, Marty Eitreim's and down to the little bridge by Jim and Gloria Johnson's on Center Ave. The gully continued west after Center to a tunnel that went under the playground of the school and then out by the railroad yard west of school and dumped into the Splitrock Creek.
During storms, it could be quite a flood back there, but during the spring melt it was really just a big flood plain of slush and ice cold water. It was a tempting place to hang out as a kid. Any of the drainage areas to it were tempting. My mission to help that flow along seemed never-ending.
One time during the spring thaw when I was walking home from confirmation class up at Zion with Michelle and Mary and I was NOT wearing my galoshes, but I was wearing my normal rubber-bottom snow-boots. Easily waterproof for a couple inches of water and keeping my feet warm and dry .... and as we went down the hill to the north on Center past the football field and past the bus barn and down the afore-mentioned bridge on Center over the gully. Spring was just beginning and the snow was still piled up along the side of the street between traffic and the sidewalk and as we get to the bridge, there are draining streams coming down the gutter and then through a drain and into the gully.
We had been splashing along on our journey, stomping on slush piles - making a gorgeous "sploosh" sound as the snow and slush spray out upon every stomp. There's something quite invigorating about hitting those little piles... making more and more snow go away. [Even today in my adulthood, I still stomp on slush when presented with a good opportunity.... or drive over it along side the road if I see it] But now we had been splashing and stomping and joyfully going home on this late winter/early spring day when I see a pile that NEEDS to be stomped. It's right by where the water was disappearing down the grate into the storm drain to the gully, and as I was about to make a HUGE splatter/splash I proclaimed to the girls, "Hey watch THIS one!".... and I lifted my right leg up to my chest and then slammed it down with as much force as I could, hoping to hit the prime slush bomb and maybe even get them wet. Instead my foot disappeared down into a hole and I was knee deep in slush. I had hit a side hole to the culvert in the gutter, where erosion had taken some of the road away and was instead filled with water and snow. I instinctively pulled my leg up and not only was my leg wet up to my knee but my boot was stuck down in the slush. The girls laughed as I pulled up a stockinged foot so I stepped back directly into the hole ... only to stick it into a rapidly filling boot... a cold water filled boot. Well, at least a couple inches filled. Cold water squish reminding instantly that I do NOT have wool socks on in a galosh with a Wonder Bread bag. I have to reach down and hold my boot on with my hand as I unstuck it from the muck at the bottom of the hole. I get my dripping boot out and drenched leg and as I take the boot off to empty out the water, the girls are laughing beyond control. I worry that they were pee'ing their pants they were laughing so hard. I dump out the water and get my foot back in the soaking boot and then begin my hurried trek home leaving the girls still laughing as they walk up the hill by Johnson's and I shout "Later!" to them as I turn the corner to the east around Sylliaasen's ... I can still them laughing as I run east up the hill as Grandma Gert's house comes into view. I knew that I wasn't in any danger, but I'm cold nonetheless. I was glad to get home and get my wet boot off in our basement "drain room" (where we stored all the wet snow gear and boots) where the galoshes mocked me as they saw me taking the soaking lining out of the boot and setting them by the drain to drip dry.
So fun to think about the snow and slush and water that came back every spring as winter melted away. It always helped us appreciate how nice our summer weather was. How it still does. Most of us tend to dislike the cold and snow and winter dreariness. And yes, the short days and cold keeping most of us inside can wear on even the toughest of souls. It wears on me. But then we get a little sun and a little warmth and that glimmer of hope appears. That first little pile of slush is begging to get stomped on... and I do. But I'm always leery of a hidden hole waiting to suck off my boot.
When I was a kid, I used to make a quick snack all on my own that was a breeze to make and required very few ingredients. I'm not even going to list the ingredients here as that would give away the surprise. Here's the instructions on how to do it on your own:
1. Get two pieces of white bread.
2. Spread each slice with butter.
3. Lightly sprinkle sugar onto each slice.
4. Place sugared sides together (assemble sandwich)
5. Enjoy your "sugar sandwich"
6. Visit Dentist.
7. Pay hefty bill.
I wondered recently just why i started eating those when I was a kid as for the longest time I've always just assumed it was because I liked sugar and particularly sugar with butter. (This stems from all the lefse with butter and sugar I've eaten since birth). But then it dawned on me (seriously...all of a sudden) that I had picked up this trick and habit from my mother.
My mom would make this snack. In reality, it pretty much is just like lefse with butter and sugar. The ingredients are quite similar and it tastes very similar as well. It was an easy snack that I could run inside and make myself in the middle of the afternoon on a summer day.
Those hot summer afternoons at 905 Third Street.... where we didn't have air conditioning. We had "open windows". The routine was to wake up and as soon as the outside temperature was warmer than the inside of the house, we'd close up all the windows and pull down all the retractable blinds. We would rough it like that for years. When the sun went down and the air cooled off, the blinds were lifted and the windows opened. The cross winds would drive cooler air through the house. If a storm moved in, we'd have to close up the windows most of the way (at least on the side of the house getting the rain driven into it). The task of opening and closing the windows was often my job, but really it was up to anybody that wanted to be comfortable.
I can list the windows I had to open. The storm door on the front of the house, the door on the west side of the house, the two kitchen windows. On the second floor, there was the bathroom window, my bedroom, the windows in the sunroom, two in the master bedroom that faced north, two in Matthew's room and two in the sewing room. Then, last but not least, there was three windows up in the attic bedroom that would allow the warmest air to rise in the house and escape out the top like a chimney. We'd place fans strategically throughout the airflow of the day. Sometimes the fans would drive the air in and other days we would place the fans to draw the air out.
Eventually the "windows only" method wasn't enough to keep us cool or even comfortable and dad broke down and we put in a window unit air conditioner on the main level by the living room. There were nights in the midst of the stretches of summer heat that we would sleep downstairs. Before the window unit (and maybe this is what the deciding factor was) we spent the night at the drug store where the central air kept it very comfortable. I only remember doing that once, so maybe only once was all that dad needed to pull the trigger on a window unit.
And then eventually further, we put another window unit upstairs in the sunroom. The sunroom opens up to both the master bedroom and to my bedroom. While I was in high school and Matthew was still around, he'd sleep on the floor of my bedroom every so often in the cooler air.
All these memories stemmed from the recollection of eating sugar with butter on bread. Those hot summer days, warm nights and easy snacks... even if they weren't the healthiest snack around.
I'm just a creative guy that's looking to throw all this spaghetti onto the wall and hope something sticks.