Monday, January 17, 2022

Today's Snow Storm

This was a pretty good storm, as storms go these days. Last night the temperature was a bit higher than over the weekend. I looked out at about 6:30 a.m. as it was getting light and everything seemed to be very still. The trees were quiet, and there was no snow on them. It crossed my mind that the air coming in the small gap where my window was open, was more like spring than January. An hour later, the trees were rocking in the wind and snow was just beginning to fall. From there the weather got really wild. I had wind gusts between 15-20 mph, but my house is fairly sheltered. However, this was an east wind - pretty rare for us. It was sometimes more SSE, but very strong and at 9 a.m. when I went out to measure the snowfall, even with my earmuffs on, the wind was a constant roar. For just a moment, I felt a surge of apprehension, like something wasn't quite "normal." As I scooped snow off the deck, I remembered that roaring sound. When I was growing up, living on Cabot Plain, hearing wind roaring outside our house was not the least bit unusual. Our house, built with 8 x 8 timbers that would hold up a freight train, would shudder as the wind hit it on cold, blustery winter nights. Its howling was the "white noise" that lulled me to sleep most nights. Outside, clouds of snow swept along the flat and up the snowbank along our driveway, where it dropped, forming drifts 5-6 feet deep, or sometimes more -- waves of clean, white, perfectly sculpted hard-packed snow. Sometime the next morning, sometimes in the wee hours, I'd be awakened by the sound of the big tractor plow as it broke through the drifts and piled snow even higher on either side of our narrow driveway. The picture above is the field behind our house - a good example of what the wind does to snow on Cabot Plain. The wind was constantly blowing on the Plain, it seemed to me. Kind of like West Danville. I've always liked wind. That's why I was surprised at being a bit intimidated when I heard it this morning.

The plow would proceed to my grandparents' farm above where our house was, (the above photo is the road leading to the farm - the road was later moved and straightened) and then it returned, making a path so the milk truck could get through. When the Plains road was too solidly packed with snow, the plow sometimes had to lift the "vee" that broke through the snow pack, leaving soft snow ridges 8-10 inches deep in the road - no problem for horses, however, most vehicles couldn't manage through that, even with chains on, so farmers would bring their cans filled with milk on a horse-drawn sled to the corner in front of the school house. The road from Route 2 to there was more sheltered and the plow could make that passable easier than the Plains Road. Ray Peck would usually deliver the mail with a horse and sleigh in the winter - he knew he was more likely to get through than if he tried to take a motor vehicle, and horses are good company when there nothing but quiet snow around you. 

After opening initial paths, the big old plow would lumber back with the wings spread to clean up the residue, sometimes having to make several trips over sections where there was a lot of drifting. Finally, trucks and cars could move again, until the next big storm. The picture on the left shows the plow coming back to widen the path after the first run through. This road was somewhere outside of Cabot Village. I'm not sure what year, but it was probably in the 1930s or early 1940s. That type of snowplow was used for many years. It was essentially a bulldozer engine with a vee plow and moveable wings. The picture above right was taken at the Bolton farm in 1935, and gives a better view of how the old plows looked. One man was inside driving the tractor and two others were standing on the back of the plow, managing a pulley and chain arrangement that let the wings down or raised them, as needed. It must have been brutally cold back there - and no doubt there was a fair amount of smoky exhaust coming from the engine stack. not a job for sissies.

Back to our little storm - I was surprised to look out on my porch this morning and find that the furniture had been rearranged - again. The chairs have covers and on the smooth, snow-covered deck of the porch, moving them about is pretty easy, but I though I had them well wedged together so they wouldn't move. Not so. Also, I noticed the solar light I had out in the back yard by the pond has blown off the pole. After all this snow (about 6 in. so far), my chances of finding it are slim, so I guess I'll find it in the spring.

It will get a lot colder tonight, but today has been reasonably warm with temperatures close to 30 degrees. Winter isn't over by a long shot, but after looking at those old photos, I really can't complain. Our roads are nicely plowed out - usually no waiting; my driveway is neatly plowed and the walkway shoveled. I have a nice tight, warm house that doesn't shudder in the wind that I barely hear when I'm inside. I'm grateful for our milder winters, but also, I cherish the memories of growing up in such an unfriendly, wild, challenging environment on Cabot Plain. That wasn't for sissies, either.


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