The first snow fall of the year is always so exciting! The temperature outside has fallen below 0 degrees Celsius and the flakes are big, fluffy, and softly falling to the ground.
Growing up on the Prairies meant a lot of cold temperatures and piles and piles of snow. But it was okay. We knew that we had to prepare for it. The warm winter “woollies” were taken out of storage in early November. We had fleece-lined snow boots, hand knitted toques, scarves and of course, several pairs of mittens. You had to have lots of mitts because they would get wet from all the snowballs we made or the snowmen that we built. If I close my eyes, I can still smell the wet, soggy mittens. Yes, just like a wet dog, wet woolen mittens give off a certain aroma.
We never felt the cold. It could be -24C outside and we’d stay out for several hours every day after school. We’d build snow forts, challenge the neighbourhood kids to snowball fights and even play tag games in the fluffy snow until it got dark out. On the Prairies, it was often dark by 4:30pm during the winter months.
I recall one year when my brother decided that we should build a ski hill in our back yard out of our pile of snow.
This pile of snow was around 20 feet high and was the result of our Uncle Metro’s bulldozer. Once a year, Uncle would come with his “cat” and plough all of the snow in our backyard and pile it right in the middle of the yard. It cleared the driveway and most of the backyard, making it easier for my dad to drive in and out of the yard. This was a lot better than having us shovel out the driveway.
And of course, it gave us kids a huge pile of snow to play in. Once we tunneled right through the middle of it and it became our igloo. Funny, come to think of it, no one ever thought that it might collapse in on us! Now a days, kids wouldn’t be allowed to go near it, let alone climb into it.
So this one year, we were going to have our mountain and we would downhill ski. Maybe this had something to do with Nancy Green winning Gold at the Olympics! I don’t really remember but whatever it was, we were going to do this! I say we because my brother and I did so many memorable things together!
We had the snow and all we needed now were skis. What to do? We couldn’t afford to buy any. I knew I could rely on my brother to come up with a solution. He always had great ideas and could solve this dilemma too. He designed and created our toboggans! You see, our toboggans were flattened cardboard boxes or old bits of leftover sheet metal. They worked really well whenever we wanted to go sledding. So these skis would be his homemade creation too!
A couple of 6 foot long 2 x 4s were cut with the handsaw, sanded and even shaped to resemble skis. When you were as young as I was, I didn’t know better and I thought that these skis were the real thing! They looked liked skis and I was even given poles.
Wow, I really looked like the downhill skiers that I had seen on tv.
You may of already picked up that my brother had all of these great ideas and made great items…for me! Ah, these are the memories that my big brother helped create for me !
Here’s a wonderful book that you may enjoy about winters on the Canadian Prairies. It’s called If You’re Not from The Prairie by David Bouchard.
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