On a late afternoon in January of 1966, I walked down our long driveway to pick up
the evening paper. It was a gloomy cloudy day the temperature was in the middle 30's. When I looked toward the sky I saw, what Mama called, dominicker clouds which she said, "Is a sure sign that snow is on the way." I didn't tell the children about the chance of snow, because I knew they would never get to sleep that night for jumping up every five minutes to see whether it was snowing.
A few snow flakes were falling before I went to bed and by morning there was a blanket of snow on the ground not very deep, but never the less the ground was completely covered. While setting the table I looked out and saw that snow had covered the leafless branches of the maple tree in front of the bay window in the kitchen. Perched on the branches were beautiful, bright red, Kentucky Cardinals. Every time it snowed they congregated in that particular tree near the bird feeder that I kept filled with, their favorite food, sunflower seed. It was like a big flocked Christmas tree with scarlet, red, Cardinals as ornaments.
Although Jim was a night owl, he usually got up the first time I called and Jay Anne was always up before anyone in the family, but David seemed to require more sleep than they did. There were times when I thought I would have to use a block and tackle to get him out of his bed. But that morning when I called, "Get up boys, breakfast is almost ready, the ground is covered with snow and it is still snowing." They immediately jumped out of bed, dressed and bounded up the stairs two steps at a time. They sat glued to the radio, hoping and praying that school would be cancelled. Finally, just minutes before bus time the announcement came, "There will be no school in Marshall County Today." After the shrieks of joy and excitement was over David said, "Mom can I call Mike, Dickie and Eddie and ask them to come out?" Soon those friends came, the snow got deeper, Jay Anne's friends and their parents came and so did more boys and girls.
The snow kept falling and before long more than six inches was on the ground. The house was filled with teenagers and giggling eight-year old girls bundled in snow clothes ready for a day of sledding on Wilson's hills. When they got the sleds out of the storage or "boogher" room they sanded and rubbed parafin on the runners to make them glide faster. They were finally ready to climb to the top of the hill to enjoy the, half-mile long, sled run down the curved farm road. It ran through the woods and across a big field, ending at a creek at the far edge of the field.
The owner of a saw mill down the road was more than glad to give slabs or waste wood to anyone who would haul them off. During the summer David and his friend, Mike Rendleman, hauled enough slabs to build a shack in the woods. The shack was located half way between the beginning and end of the sled run. Having a little stove in it made it a great place to get warm and to rest before going back to the top of the run. It didn't take many trips until they were ready to come to the house for food and to dry their clothes. Jay had built a roaring fire in front of a big backlog in fireplace in the basement. We had gallons of hot chocolate and hot dogs waiting for them. They toasted marshmallows, popped corn over the open fireplace and of course made snow cream.
While the kids were resting and eating the grown-ups decided to head for the hill. We didn'e think we were ready for the longer sled run so we chose the shorter run between our house and the neighbor. I decided to try out the Overbey's aluminum "Flying Saucer." Without giving me instruction on how to guide or stop the thing, Bob Overbey gave me a big push and I went flying down the hill, landing smack in the middle of a blackberry patch. I think every brier on those blackberry bushes snagged me, my face was a mass of scratches.
When the adults came back to the house, David was picking the guitar, they were singing folk songs, "Puff the magic dragon," "Frankie and Johnny" and "Green Sleeves," but when David sang "Grandma's in The Cellar" it brought the house down. He must have learned that song when he was a counsler at Camp Currie during the summer. I certainly didn't teach it to him. Those with queezy stomachs would not enjoy it. It goes like this.
Grandma's in the cellar, Lordy can't you smell'er
Bakin' biscuits on that durned ole dirty stove.
In her eye there is some matter That keeps drippin' in the batter,
And she wipes her running nose all down her sleeve.
The next night, David asked four of the boys to spend the night in the shack. I didn't like the idea, because the temperature was supposed to go down to zero and I knew they didn't have enough fire wood to keep a fire burning all night. Extremely rustic, is the only way to describe the shack, it was fine for it's purpose, getting warm and resting, but not for a sleep over. They fought over getting to sleep next to our collie dog, Mollie, as she generated a lot of heat, but they finally agreed to take turns. By huddling together, they didn't freeze to death and not one of them caught a cold or had pneumonia, as I had predicted.
Tommy Thomas, had so much fun he would not go home. Every day I would say, "Tommy, I see traffic moving on highway 60, don't you think your dad can come get you?" Every day, he would say, "No, I don't think he can get up or down your hill." Tommy was with us for five days. As much as I enjoyed the snow and watching the children have fun, I was ready for school to open again and for Tommy to go home.
For the rest of that winter, while walking down the driveway to get the paper, I didn't dare look for dominicker clouds in the sky. I did look for them again a few days before Christmas the next year and was wishing it would snow, because there is nothing more beautiful than a white Christmas in Kentucky.