A Winter Storm in 1920

By Elton Camp The winter of 1920 brought one of the infrequent ice storms to rural Marshall County in Alabama. Even the ol !eo!le allowe that it was the worst they" ever seen. The storm began on a clou y #ecember ay. The tem!erature hung within a egree of two of the free$ing !oint. %t was much col er aloft. The storm starte innocently enough& with a slow ri$$le. '(it"s ban)in" u! t" snow. Mought commence enny time& Milas s!eculate . '*"u boys go brang u! som" woo t" a t" th" !ile.+ ,o weather forecaster !rovi e warning of what was to come. The first evi ence that an ice storm was im!en ing was accumulation of silvery shells of ice on the limbs of bushes. The col rain !ic)e u! in intensity. Although it fell in liqui form& it fro$e as it struc) e-!ose surfaces. sli!!e '.oo)s li)e we"s en fer hit&+ /elle sai . '(it"s beginnin" t" slic) over.+ 0he" angerously on the ice1covere stones that serve for ste!s at the bac) !orch.

As the ay wore on& the ice s!rea to all the trees as well as fences an remnants of cro!s in the fiel s. 2n er the growing weight& the limbs began to roo!. 3ith a lou sna!& a limb from one of the elms in front of the house bro)e an crashe to the groun . %t narrowly misse the e ge of the !orch. The !o!!ing an crashing became more frequent an continue the rest of the ay an into the night. Entire to!s bro)e from larger !ine trees an they were stri!!e of their fragile limbs. 0maller trees leane at shar! angles before the loa became so great that they swage com!letely to the groun . The tem!erature remaine at the free$ing !oint. The ne-t morning& the family awo)e to a scene of chaos. 0ilvery limbs lay everywhere. The family coul reach the barn to ten to the animals only by !ursuing a $ig$ag course aroun the fallen boughs. The bro)en to! of a !ine tree ha crushe the corncrib. Even the roa ha become im!assible from ebris of the storm. '/oys& git sum a-es "n" clean u! th" roa "long our !ro!!ity&+ Milas irecte . To maintain the roa s was the country way. 3hen a boy turne eighteen& he coul choose between !aying a roa ta- an wor)ing it out by )ee!ing u! the gravel an irt lanes. Most boys ha no realistic o!tion. They wor)e . Clearing u! after the ice storm wasn"t !art of that arrangement. %t was something they i sim!ly because it nee e oing. All the other families woul o the same. A wi ow without sons nearby woul fin neighbor men coming to her assistance. ,obo y e-!ecte females to wor) on the roa .

As they cho!!e the fallen limbs into manageable !ieces an !ulle them onto the shoul er of the roa & the boys sto!!e to ga$e at the surroun ing forests. The rain ha sto!!e . The sun ha come out. 4lashing s!ar)les of green& re & yellow& an blue came from the still1stan ing trees. %t was a fantastic sight. At wi e intervals& more limbs& wea)ene from the heavy ice& continue to !o! an crash& but& for the most !art& the storm was over. Asi e from the e-tra wor) of cleaning u!& it ha little affect on the family"s aily routine. Electric lines an !hone lines i n"t fall because none e-iste . Among the town wellers& it was a ifferent story. 0ome of them remaine out of what they" come to regar as essential services for ays or wee)s. City living ma e !eo!le soft. Two wee)s after the ice storm came one of the ee! snows that ty!ically occurre only once a winter. %t began with scattere fla)es& but increase in intensity as they ay went along. The fro$en soil was an i ea base to allow for significant accumulation. The groun became white& but leaves an grass stic)ing u! through the snow initially marre the beauty. /y later afternoon about si- inches ha fallen& giving an otherworl ly a!!earance to the familiar lan sca!e. Ailene an % uma ran about in the yar & shrie)ing with elight& as the ra!i ly falling snow stung their noses an faces. Each e-!iration !ro uce mists of white from the moisture in their breath. '3atch me&+ % uma calle out. '%"m gonna )etch a sno"fla)e wif my tongue.+ /y nightfall the family was gathere in front of the fire!lace. %nstea of e-!eriencing the comfy warmth tra ition attributes to fire!laces& they ha to eal with harsh reality. (owar scoote his chair close an face the fire!lace. After about twenty minutes& the enim of his overalls felt hot to the touch. The metal bra s that hel the cloth together became bla$ing hot an burne his s)in. (is face an han s absorbe so much heat that he began to sweat. At the same time& a bitter col embrace his bac). (e move his chair farther from the fire an turne it si eways. (e burne u! on one si e an fro$e on the other. Most of the meager heat went u! the chimney. The house was rafty an evoi of insulation. The tem!erature insi e remaine well below the free$ing !oint e-ce!t irectly in front of the fire!lace an imme iately aroun the woo coo) stove in the )itchen. The heating situation was worsene by the way the family gathere firewoo . 0easone woo that was thoroughly rie !ro uce the most heat. 0!ring& summer& an fall were the busy seasons& so cutting firewoo was relegate to late fall an winter& often on a last minute& as nee e & basis. The result was green woo that was har to ignite& !o!!e furiously& an use much of the heat it !ro uce to rive off its own moisture.

That night /elle !ulle the e-tra quits from storage an lai them on the be s. The chil ren& as usual& sle!t three to a be . The weight of the a e quilts ma e it har even to turn over. 5nce bo y heat is!elle the biter chill of the be & the chil ren ha cocoons of warmth where they sle!t comfortably until morning. The s)y was still clou y at aybrea). 5ccasional showers of snow fell. 5utsi e lai a thic) blan)et of white. The wash !ot was a smooth& roun lum!& bushes were moun s of snow& an the woo !ile ha isa!!eare un er a cloa)ing of uniformity so that not a stic) coul be seen. The roa way was covere & but it i n"t matter since nobo y was out on such a ay. The accumulation came almost to the level of the !orches. E-ce!t for the outbuil ings an tall trees& everything was a sea of unbro)en white. '6o chec) on th" anim"ls& boys&+ Milas irecte . 'Ma)e sure they"s got enuf hay. %f not& throw sum own from th" loft. Then see t" th" chic)"ns. 0!rea out sum corn fer "em in th" coo!. They can"t wal) "n this snow.+ The boys rushe out to o their father"s bi ing. They were eager to rom! in the snow. After a few ste!s& they foun that it wasn"t the fun they" e-!ecte . The younger boys san) well below their )nees. Even long1legge .eamon ha ifficulty wal)ing in snow of that e!th. Milas ste!!e onto the !orch to observe. '6it sum shovels "n" ig !aths&+ he sai . 'This snow"ll b" heer fer a while.+ The snow was heavy an wet. /y concerte effort they cleare !aths wi e enough to wal) single file. The e-!ose & brown groun became mu y as it gathere heat from the sunshine. The si es of the !aths were far higher than the general snowfall. %t was useless to throw the snow very far from where it" been remove . The nee s of the farm animals met& the chil ren coul !lay. '.et"s buil a sno"man&+ 7ean suggeste . All thought it an e-cellent i ea. 0ome lesser snows were ry an crumbly. They weren"t suitable for creating the large balls that went into the construction of a snowman. This one was 8ust right. The snowman began as a com!resse lum! of snow about the si$e of a soft ball. 3or)ing two or three at a time& the chil ren rolle the ball about in the snow. %t grew ra!i ly as it !ic)e u! layer after layer. They were careful to ma)e it as roun as !ossible. 'This un"s big enuf fer th" bottom&+ (owar eclare . '.et"s start on th" mi l".+

They re!eate the same !rocess as before& but sto!!e when the ball was slightly smaller than the first one. '3e musn"t ma)e it so big we can"t lift it&+ .eamon cautione . '0now"s heavy.+

4our of the chil ren wor)e together to heave the ball ato! the base. They !ac)e e-tra snow where the balls met to hol them together an to give their creation a better waistline. A much smaller ball of snow ma e an a mirable hea . Two roc)s ug from the groun of the !ath to the barn serve as eyes when !resse firmly into the hea . A short& brown stic) became a nose. ,o hat was worn out enough to be !lace on its hea . Their father i n"t smo)e& so no !i!e coul be thrust into the mouth. The snowman was com!lete. As they stoo bac) an a mire their wor)& the chil ren agree that they" one an e-cellent 8ob. '/ir ie& fetch me ah buc)et o" thet snow "n" %"ll ma)e us some sno" cream&+ /elle calle out. 0he stoo on the si e !orch hol ing an enamel buc)et. '/e shore t" git hit from a ee! !lace thet"s not got trash "n hit.+ The reci!e was a sim!le one. To the snow& /elle a e cream from the cow"s mil)& some white& granulate sugar& an ro!s of 3at)ins vanilla flavoring which she" !urchase from a traveling salesman. 0he stirre the ingre ients an a e snow as necessary& until it reache an icy consistency. All agree that snow cream was one of the best things about winter. Confine to the area of the house an yar & family members ha to entertain themselves as best they coul . Milas an /elle !ursue one of their favorite !astimes& !laying ominoes. Milas ha a set of ouble nines. Most sets went only to ouble si-es. (e !lace the blac) rectangles on the )itchen table with the s!ots own an sli them aroun until they were ran omly assorte . The two each rew seven ominoes to start. (e always went first. 5nly multi!les of fives score !oints. The en ominoes all aroun were the ones that were a e to ma)e the etermination. An intricate esign evelo!e as the game !rogresse . Milas )e!t score on a !a!er from a brown sac). Although she ha little formal e ucation& !laying the game ha enable /elle to learn to count an a quic)ly. /oth were consi ere to be s)ille !layers.

(This is an excerpt from my unpublishe boo!" The Granny Room#

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