This post is by Joe Stephens
The snow heightened in intensity as I stepped outside, almost as if it was trying to put its best foot forward for me. At one point, it was so heavy and wind-driven that I had trouble seeing my car at the end of the horseshoe. But by the time I got home, it had all but stopped. It was a squall, and a small one at that. But our first semi-snow of the season took me back to what seemed like much longer, snowier winters of my childhood. I’m sure I’m putting many winters together in my mind, but it feels like we regularly rode our sleds on the hill behind my house.
Going by there now, I’m appalled at how short and shallow that hill
seems. Back then, it seemed like a true mountain, especially when I was dragging my Flexible Flyer sled to the top for about the twentieth time that night. But I couldn’t stay on the bottom; after all, the fire and warmth were at the top.
I remember my cousin trying to ski down the hill once. Only problem was that he was using water skis. That lasted part of one trip down the hill. We also tried an old car hood, which wasn’t bad going down, but it was so heavy that it was used for exactly one trip. One winter, somebody (I think it was my brother Don) got the bright idea to haul gallon jugs of water up with us, not to drink but to pour down the hill to create a giant ice track. That was just plain scary. We absolutely flew–sometimes literally!
The craziest thing that ever happened though, was when my then future brother-in-law and cousin nearly blew themselves to bits trying to start the fire. I didn’t witness it first hand, but I was the nearest to the event other than the two perpetrators. I was at the foot of the hill, about to start the slow slog up to where Steve and Larry had promised to start a really warm fire, when the night turned to day for an instant. Just as my eyes turned toward the flash, the boom and concussion of the explosion knocked me off my feet. After that, all I heard was the thudding of what I would soon learn was firewood raining down all around.
Turns out Steve and Larry had sneaked into our garage and “borrowed” a gallon of gasoline and had poured the entire can onto the wood in order to fight against the wetness of the wood. They figured it would be a pretty good sized fire once it caught, so they were lighting wooden kitchen matches and flicking them toward the pit. What they’d failed to account for, though, was the vapors from the gas. Somewhere around the fourth or fifth flick, the match stayed lit long enough to hit the ever-growing cloud of fumes. That was when things got really bright and really loud.
When I got to the top of the hill, I found a big charred hole where the firewood had once been (it was scattered for hundreds of feet all over the hillside) and Steve and Larry, slightly singed and temporarily hard of hearing, but having a good laugh nonetheless.
Sometimes I wonder how we all survived childhood.
Joe Stephens is a teacher at Parkersburg High School. He is also the author of Harsh Prey, Kisses and Lies, and the recently released In the Shadow, all of which are available in paperback and Kindle formats. The paperback may be purchased from Createspace, Amazon, and most online booksellers. In the real world, you may purchase from J & M Used Book Store in Parkersburg and from the author’s trunk.
Check out his newest book on Amazon
Take a look at Harsh Prey on Amazon
Take a look at Kisses and Lies on Amazon
Join Joe on Facebook
Check out joe’s website.