SEEING PHOTOS OF the snowstorm in Buffalo took me back to my childhood, to the time it snowed so much it crept up our dining room windows and nearly covered them.

That was the year my horse got loose from the barn and headed down the road in rural Skowhegan, kicking up his hooves and acting like a bird that had escaped from a cage.

I don’t know how many feet of snow we got, but there was so much that the town plows had all they could do to clear the roads well enough to let one vehicle pass through.

Our road was about a mile long and Heisan, my horse, trotted along, ignoring my pleas to return and delighted with his newfound freedom.

The snow banks were high above my head, and I was pretty tall for a 13-year-old girl.

As I ventured down the snowy road after him, visions of equine vs. vehicle collisions in my head, I got a sudden reprieve.

Heisan, an elegant retired race horse with a chestnut-colored coat and white stripe down his face, became trapped when a car approached from the west.

He could neither proceed nor retreat, as the car edged toward him on one side, and I crept forward on the other.

He surrendered, and I gently seized his halter and led him back home to his stall.

Those were the days when we got out of school for long periods of time and spent days shoveling snow, tobogganing on a hill near our house and digging tunnels in the field.

Those tunnels were very extensive. They went every which way and included four-way intersections where we dug holes to the open air so we could occasionally take a break from crawling and stand, thus soothing our aching backs and frozen knees. To the unsuspecting bystander, we must have looked like snowy groundhogs popping up to eye the enemy.

I don’t know where we got the idea, but we carried candles and matches in our pockets as we entered the tunnels, crawled to a meeting place where we could sit four comfortably in a circle, and lit the candles to keep warm. It’s a wonder we did not suffocate.

Everywhere it seems we crawled a lot in winter — up snowbanks, across the field when the surface got crusty, into barn doorways and out. We always had snow inside our socks, seeping into mittens and creeping up our backs. Unlike today, when we have snow gear that seals our bodies up like underwater gear, we were never, it seems, dry or warm.

That is when we’d come into the house, red-faced and nearly frozen, snow pellets stuck all over anything woolen — and back in those days wool was the attire of choice — and collapse on the old oil furnace grate on the hall floor off the living room below the stairs.

I can hear the snow sizzling as it struck the hot steel grate. Once we were thawed out enough to shed our layers, we peeled them off, one by one, and slung them aside.

Sleepy and hypnotized by the sudden warmth, we hunkered together, wiggling, nudging and sometimes pushing one another, vying for the best seat.

We slept well those nights after a day out in the cold.

And while I still like to snuggle up to a warm fire after coming in tired from a long winter walk, it doesn’t compare to the sensation I felt as a youngster, exhausted from winter play and lulled to sleep by the warmth from that furnace.

I have friends and neighbors who head south for the winter because of the snow and cold. And while I admit it becomes a nuisance, as December trails on into January and then February and March, I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

I can’t imagine a year without snow, and I guess for me at least, the more, the merrier.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 26 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]


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