I normally post on M-W-F but decided to post this in the expectation of the two snowflakes that we may receive here in the foothills of Greenville County, South Carolina. I hope you enjoy. For some reason the forecast of possible snow has lost its appeal since I retired from teaching.
OUR FIRST WINTER OR HOW LONG WAS IT BEFORE THE DONNER PARTY BEGAN TO EAT EACH OTHER?
We moved into our little piece of heaven in November of 1987 over Thanksgiving break from school. We had five short days to get it done. Thirty years later we are still trying to finish unpacking. No, just joking…maybe. It was a close thing. Mr. Copeland really didn’t want to leave so he dragged his feet. His second wife, a woman thirty years his junior, wanted to leave and go back to her little piece of heaven in…Union County? The things we do for our ladies! He finally just gave up packing his “treasures” and departed. He left a whole bunch of stuff behind – books, papers, old records, even a bed. A complete set of 1956 edition Funk and Wagnall’s remained where they had always sat. Okay, younger readers, there used to be a company called Funk and Wagnall that produced encyclopedias. They were sold in grocery stores and…Encyclopedia? Oh no! Think of it as the boring part of the internet in book form. Books?
From Mr. Copeland we also “inherited” several pickup truckloads of junk. I had a 1972 blue Chevy work truck. Let me say, it looked older than its fifteen years and the two hundred or so thousand miles it had on it. Driven hard and put up wet, the paint was so bad that whatever was not rust was filmy oxidized blue. There was just enough metal to hold the rust together. The “powers that be” at our condominium complex had requested, nay demanded, that the truck not be left on the street to be seen. As I finished loading the last of Mr. Copeland’s “treasures” and began the five-mile trek to the trash dump, my faithful steed gave up the ghost or so I thought. As I coasted to a stop at the base of my drive I had just enough forward momentum to pull off to the side. A day or two later a Hispanic gentleman stopped and asked if it was for sale. I said it could be. He asked what I meant and I answered him saying that he would have to get it running. This began a really odd form of bargaining. He countered with, “If I get it running, what are you asking?” I said, “That depends. If I have to unload the trash $300. If you unload it, I’ll let it go for $250.” He unloaded it. You know, I kind of miss that old truck.
We were in our new home, well new to us. At that time, we were “younger” and stupid. We had five fireplaces and a wood stove to go with a thirty-year-old fuel oil furnace as we faced our first winter. Okay, wood stoves and fireplaces take wood and we had plenty of deadfall wood lying around but did I have a chainsaw? No, I did not even have an axe. I had not used a chainsaw in a decade. With no heat upstairs, just a couple of fireplaces, I was going to have to reintroduce myself to one. Did I have a method of transporting said wood? Oh yeah, I had just sold my truck.
That winter we received seventeen inches of snow over two days during a late winter storm. With temperatures refusing to climb above freezing, everything shut down and we were stranded for a week. With a forecast of a hundred-year storm, I purchased a chainsaw and in lieu of a truck, a wheelbarrow. “Barrowing” loads of wood sure made me miss my old Chevy. At least, we wouldn’t freeze to death if we lost power.
Our little piece of heaven is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains at the foot of what is known as the Blue Ridge Escarpment, or according to my Funk and Wagnall’s “a long, steep slope, especially one at the edge of a plateau or separating areas of land at different heights.” We sit a little over twelve hundred feet above sea level and our land rises to about fifteen hundred feet behind us. We don’t get a lot of snow at twelve hundred feet compared to what we get at fifteen and, in contrast to our northern brethren, even our big snows are lacking. Before you Damn Yankees snicker just understand seventeen inches of snow in South Carolina is like six feet of snow in Buffalo. Linda and I actually live in an area known as the Thermal Belt that is, for some reason not understood by me, a little warmer than the surrounding areas. We usually have to go “in search of snow” because of the extra warmth we receive. Again let me say it will still get cold! It especially gets cold in an old 1880’s farm house that had insulation blown into the walls about 1956. Sixty years later, insulation or not, in winter the house is still…BURRRRR!
Seventeen inches of snow closes everything in South Carolina…okay two inches will close us down like Blue Laws on a Sunday. The mere hint of snow or ice sends people into a frenzy of shopping…for milk and bread. At one time there was a theory suggesting that the dairy farmers had entered into some type of cabal with the weather services to boost milk sales. “Just sayin’!” I mean… why not a frenzy of canned goods buying? Sardines will last. With sardines, crackers and mustard I’m good for a while, especially if you replace the milk with beer or Jack Daniels. Should you not also see an increase in peanut butter and toilet paper sales?
In a song by Jimmy Buffett, “Boat Drinks,” the singer laments the cold weather and being stuck watching a hockey match. “I just shot six holes in my freezer; I think I’ve got cabin fever.” I understood the feeling. With three puppies, Linda and a TV that received only two channels “some” of the time, my incarceration was fun…for about forty-eight hours. Even hiking in the snow got old since I had forgotten to get insulated and waterproof boots. After five days of this misery, I was willing to try anything; however, with a Volkswagen bug and a Thunderbird our options were limited. We found out that the little VW got around in the snow pretty well once it could clear the drifts. I swore I would never be without four-wheel drive again and haven’t been since! Funny thing, after I bought it, I have needed it only once…for snow. But I must confess that I do use it often to haul wood…lots and lots of wood.