Snow Big Deal

The time that I spent growing up in the suburbs with a big front yard was the best. It was good for all sorts of things, in any weather, but especially the winter. When the cold weather would arrive, I would don my meteorologist hat that I got at the meteorologist store. It was on sale, I had to buy it. Instead of watching the local weather to find out when the snow was coming, I had installed radar on top of the house, with Doppler. That way I could monitor the weather, minute by minute, and know when the snow was coming.

The computers that combined the radar and map images were down in the basement. I had scrimped and saved every penny I could find to afford it all. I was very good at predicting the snowfall levels but only to the neighborhood level and was busily working on getting yard by yard forecasts. I had gotten so elaborate with everything, that I did my own forecasts. I talked to my Dad about getting some green screens and doing a closed circuit show to the neighborhood but he doesn’t want to spend the money.

I remember one particular winter when, after checking the radar, I noticed a huge storm was headed this way. From what my tracking data showed, this neighborhood was going to get hit hard. I double-checked all the information and it showed the same forecast. Snow, definitely, snow and lots of it.

All of us in the neighborhood loved snow, lots and lots of snow. Why? Because snow means snowmen. We all loved building snowmen. Years ago we started small and had individual puny snowmen scattered in several yards throughout the neighborhood. Soon after we started competing with each other and the number of snowmen increased, as did the quality. Then we started collaborating with each other and made big snowmen and really big snowmen and even snow scenes to go along with them.

The snowmen business wasn’t always fun though. After one big blizzard, we had made snowmen in every yard. They were all lined up for the entire block, with sculpted scenes in between each one. The whole neighborhood was one big diorama. That is until someone vandalized them, making them anatomically correct. We got into big trouble over that incident and, to this day, still don’t know who did it.

That night, hoping that my forecast was right, I climbed into bed to sleep but I kept tossing and turning from the anticipation of snow. Finally, after what seemed like hours, I got up and checked the radar again. The tracking data was even better than before. It had improved and the snow totals were looking bigger. So, there I was trying to get to sleep, waiting for the big snowstorm so I could build some snowmen. Getting up to check the radar, tossing and turning. Checking the radar again. Getting back into bed. In all of that, somehow, I fell asleep. But the falling asleep isn’t the story. It’s the waking up.

When I finally did wake up, I looked out the window of my bedroom and saw snow. Lots and lots of snow, covering everything the eye could see. Snow was drifted everywhere and partially covered my window. So much snow, glorious, glorious snow lay on the ground and I couldn’t contain myself.

I started jumping on the bed and yelling out loud. “Snow! Snow! Snow!” I would jump up and while still in the air would yell. “Snow!” I was bouncing and yelling and started doing acrobatics. The thought of doing a back flip raced through my mind but after a quick glance at the shattered remains of my closet door from last winter’s attempt, I decided I shouldn’t.

I was jumping so hard and high that I ended up banging my head into the ceiling. I didn’t care, since there was already a dent there from previous winters. The dent was in the ceiling not my head. After several minutes of jumping, shouting and banging my head, I started to get a headache, so I jumped off the bed and ran to get dressed.

I quickly put my clothes on. I couldn’t wait to run to my friend’s houses and start making snowmen. I grabbed my coat, my hat, my boots, my gloves, my snow pants and my scarf and put them all on. As I ran past my parents on the way to the front door, I shouted to them that I was going outside. I quickly opened the door and slammed it into my head. Jeez, my head was really starting to hurt. I was dizzy for just a couple of seconds, but quickly shook it off. I ran outside only to find my friends standing there waiting for me. There was Bucky, the Professor, Screwhead, and the two brothers Dave and Dan.

Bucky was so named because of his huge front teeth. In school he used to chew on pencils and looked liked a beaver making a dam. Well, without the tail. That was when he picked up the name Bucky Beaver. So, we ended up shortening it to Bucky. He’s still the best pencil sharpener though.

The Professor was named because he was the real smart one and was always inventing things for us to use. We had watched too many reruns of Gilligan’s Island and named him after The Professor. We all just wished he’d quit dressing like him.

Screwhead was named because of an accident when we were trying to build a tree house and someone, I’m not naming names, threw some wood at him. Ok, it was me. The wood had some nails and screws in it. One piece of wood started spinning on his head and one of the screws screwed itself in. It was kind of hard to get that back off. That’s another story in itself.

The two brothers curiously didn’t have nicknames.

Me? They call me Doornail.

There they were standing waist deep in the snow. Well, actually, the Professor was kind of short and was standing sort of chest deep in the snow. After we got done with the celebration in the snow with the dancing and the snowballs and the burying of the Professor, we got right into the snowman building. Now, for really good snowman building you have to have a plan, so we dug the Professor out and got busy.

We started on the bottom part but found it tough going. It had also rained last night and there was a layer of ice in the snow. It was warm enough out so the snow was wet. It was just the right consistency for snowmen. But we couldn’t roll the snow well with the ice layer. We all sat down on the front steps and tried to come up with a solution for our problem. Well, we were really waiting for the Professor to come up with a solution.

As we were sitting waiting for the Professor, Bucky noticed someone walking up the street. The street still hadn’t been plowed yet and just his head was sticking up out of the snow. He was sort of plowing his way through and would periodically have to stop and wipe the snow off from his face. He slowly, oh so slowly, plowed his way through the snow and approached us. He turned up the sidewalk and continued to trudge his way through the snow.

Once he was finally up to where we were sitting on the steps, he cleared the snow from his face, spit some out of his mouth and asked us what we were doing. We took several minutes to explain to him why he shouldn’t be here. Bucky threw some comments in about his mom, which even to this day I’m not sure are possible. Screwhead tried insulting him about some things that didn’t really make a lot of sense. He hasn’t been real good at that since the accident. The Professor threatened him with a strange apparatus that he was going to build that would do unspeakable things to him. I think he’s been reading too much about the inquisition. The two brothers just agreed with everything that was said. Me? I remained silent.

The kid just stood there and took all of it in without flinching. Once we were finished, his only response was two words. “Snow Fort.”

We all stared at him quietly and, after a long pause with a few glances at each other, we started laughing and slapping each other on the back. Then we took turns telling him what a stupid idea it was, with Bucky throwing some more insults in about the kid’s mother. I think he may have needed some therapy. Me? Yeah, I joined in too. By the look on The Professor’s face I could tell he was coming up with a really good insult when suddenly the kid repeated. “Snow Fort.”

After another round of laughing, backslapping and insults, the Professor interrupted everyone quickly cutting Bucky off from another mother comment. “Wait a minute guys.” Right at that moment, someone turned on the porch light. From where I was sitting, it looked like it was right over the Professor’s head. “I’ve got an idea.”

The Professor got really excited. He jumped up and starting drawing pictures in the snow to illustrate and launched into a near hysterical tirade. Drawing and talking and waving his arms about, he hit me in the head a couple of times. It’s really starting to throb now. He was talking so fast; we could hardly understand what he was talking about. Okay, most of the words we didn’t understand either, but, as his drawing in the snow and his rambling speech continued an image immerged. One by one we each saw the picture and simultaneously said, “Snow Fort!” Well, all of us except for Screwhead who was scratching his head and had a puzzled look on his face. The kid stood there throughout all this and just looked at us, nodded his head slowly and said “Snow Fort.” He then proceeded to flip us off. Which was how he got his name, Flip.

We started immediately with the Professor taking the guys down to the pond to cut blocks of ice for the foundation. I was left to clear a space for the blocks to be placed. The Professor had left the building plans with me etched in a sheet of ice.

The guys started transporting the blocks of ice from the pond to the yard using sleds and some dog teams. The work progressed quickly and in a short time we had most of the foundation built. The Professor had to come and readjust some things once in a while. Hey, reading blueprints from a sheet of ice isn’t easy.

We were all in the yard busy putting some blocks in place when one of the brothers yelled, “Someone’s coming!” We all turned to look and could see there was a bike coming up the street. The street still hadn’t been plowed yet and the bike was having a hard time getting through the snow. The rider was using all his strength on the pedals. Behind the bike, someone was being pulled and they were sliding through the snow on what looked like a sled of some sort. Then someone said the words that we all hated to hear; “It’s Sid!”

Sid lived two blocks up the street. He was the only child of Mr. and Mrs. Dystik and was the most feared person in the neighborhood. He had himself a gang of kids from the neighborhood that he kept in line by threatening, strong-arming, blackmailing or any other way he could.

The bike finally plowed to the front of the yard and stopped. Sid got off the sled and as he walked passed the profusely sweating kid on the bike, smacked him in the back of the head then approached us. Slowly he walked all around the partially completed snow fort and inspected it carefully. “Snow fort, huh?” was all he said. Flip answered, “Snow fort!” and nodded his head.

Then the blueprints caught Sid’s eye and he slowly looked them over carefully. He was tracing some of the details with his finger, mumbling to himself, when his face abruptly lit up and he shouted, “This will not stand!” causing the ice to violently shatter. He started laughing in a low sinister Sid-ness of a laugh and then slowly made his way back to the sled. And with that, the kid on the bike started pedaling again, using all of his strength and skill to turn the bike around, and Sid was gone.

We feverishly continued building. No really, one of the brothers had a temperature of 102. The Professor was busy trying to figure out how to build a drawbridge and we had completed the digging of the moat as well as building most of the walls and turrets. That’s when my dad decided to come out and clear off the driveway. By the time he was done, most of the snow ended up in the moat. With the drawbridge missing, it was making the work on the fort slower. Maybe we should have saved that until later.

Suddenly someone shouted out, “They’re coming!” The Professor ran to the top of one of the turrets and pulled a pair of binoculars out of a pocket. He peered into them at a crowd of people that were coming up the street. That is if between 5 and 10 people constitutes a crowd.

“It’s Sid alright. And he’s got company.” The Professor said glancing away from the binoculars at nothing in particular.

Once they got closer, they started their attack with snowballs. They were flying all over the place. The snowballs hit harmlessly on the fort and the house and my radar on the house. But you didn’t want to get hit with one. I took one to the back of the head and I’m still having trouble remembering…remembering…what was I talking about. Oh yeah, my head really hurt. So, since the snowballs were so ineffective, we started to taunt them. Bucky was yelling his best insults about Sid’s mom, which unfortunately for me, was right when my mom had just opened the door to get the mail. She gave me a very bad glance and closed the door quickly, which was fortunate because about 3 or 4 snowballs hit the door soon afterwards. All the taunting did was make them more intense in their attack. We started throwing back more snowballs too. The sky darkened from the sheer number of snowballs. Or maybe it was the clouds, I’m not sure I think my vision was slightly blurred.

We fought back hard and the taunting must have had an effect because they finally retreated. After a big cheer from the troops, we engaged in the obligatory backslapping and carrying on the shoulders and dropping on my head. After, we all had a sit down and tried to figure out their next move. None of us thought this was over. The Professor reminded us that Sid’s last words were, “This will not stand!”

We worked harder than ever to clear off the snowball carnage and dig out the moat again. The Professor, had formed a crew and finally completed the drawbridge and we had cleaned out the moat. While we were finishing filling up the moat and doing some minor touches on the fort, the Professor was busily trying to devise a way to make a flaming snowball. I’m not really sure we needed those coat-of-arms though.

That’s when they came. The Professor, looking through his binoculars once again, told us that Sid had a lot of people with him. Those were his exact words. He wouldn’t clarify it anymore than that. Sid also had two catapults, a couple of siege towers and what looked like a battering ram. We were in trouble.

When they got into range, the catapults unleashed first, and were causing some minor damage to the walls. We then discovered how bad our situation was when the attacks started from three sides. We were holding strong but the snow was starting to build up inside the fort. We started desperately to shovel the snow out when the snowballs started coming and the siege-towers were moved in.

We were valiantly holding off the siege-towers, although there were several men down, half-buried in snow. The snowballs were continuously flying and the catapults continued their onslaught when the entire fort started shaking. It would seem they were using the battering ram. I had taken cover and couldn’t see how they managed to navigate the moat to get to the drawbridge. We were trying to withstand all of this, when the drawbridge collapsed and soon afterwards the gate.

We tried to hold them off with snowballs and buckets of hot water, but to no avail. They started swarming the fort. Things were looking the worst when my dad opened the door and stuck his head out. A snowball just missed his head. If he had hair it would have creased it. An abrupt silence suddenly ensued and looking around he yelled for everyone to get the hell out of his yard. Looking straight at me, he told me to get the hell in the house because it was suppertime and slammed the door close.

My parents wouldn’t let me out again after supper and sometime during the night Sid or his minions came back and totally decimated the fort. The weather changed after that and it was never cold enough to build another fort.

In winters to come we decided it was safer to stick with snowmen. Flip would build forts down by his house but they were pitiful paltry imitations of the fort we built.

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