Maybe global warming has affected our climate and the amount of snow we get at any one time. That is if there is such a thing as global warming. If not, how do you explain that the drifts of my childhood were always over my head. Today, they're usually knee-deep at best, maybe a few push waist deep. And how do you explain the fact that storms that once would have kept us in for days now barely keep us away from Wal-Mart for 24-hours?
I'm not going to bother looking up weather records to compare inches of snowfall this year with inches of snowfall in say 1961, when I was 7 years old. If memory serves me correctly, there have been years with big snows, and years with little snow. The winter underway now seems to be in between. But for someone now in his-mid-50's any snow after the first snow of the season is one snow too many. The first one is romantic, or at least sentimental, since it reminds you of winters in days gone by. Any snow after that is just a pain in the rear because you have to walk through it, drive in it, shovel it, plow it , and scrape it away from the barn door to get in and out without problems. Somehow I don't remember those things being problems back when I was 7, 10 or even 15 years old.
Here's my explanation for why today's snowfalls seem so much tamer than those of my youth, back on the diary farm.
First, when you're three or four feet tall and look straight on at a snowdrift that's four or five feet tall, it seems like a mountain. When you're six feet tall, a three-foot drift is just a pudgy little annoyance you have to walk through without getting your feet inside your boots soaked. Since I still keep boots until they crack or need patching, a habit I picked up from mom in the '60's when times were tough on a small family dairy farm, the depth of the snow drift doesn't necessarily explain why my feet are wet and cold all the time.
Second, it's hard to have snow drifts 'as tall as the fences' when there aren't any fences left. Yes, I remember some that high, but if I really think about it, I think it was after the road was plowed, and all the snow directed toward the fence.
Third, I recall being able to walk on top of the drifts in the old days. They surely had to be so bigger and stouter then. The fact that I weighed 80 pounds soaking wet then and 275 pounds in my underwear today surely couldn't have anything to do with it.
Fourth, the county had a few grungy little trucks with snow plows then. Today they've got considerably more, and they're bigger, more powerful and carry bigger snowplows. I used to hate to see a snowplow come down the road, because I figured it meant we were going to school the next day. Today, I hate it when one doesn't come down the road. How else am I going to get out for my Wal-Mart fix?
Fifth, there were wide open spaces back then. We didn't exactly live on the prairie, but with few houses around, there was less to block the wind. Snow picked up steam blowing across the fields, then piled up at fences or ditches or around other places, wherever it meant resistance. With so much more development in our county today, there's less open spaces where snow can build up steam and blow off in one direction.
Finally, and this certainly can't be a factor, maybe the drifts weren't quite as high in my youth as I recall them in my memory today. Snow was exciting, and I captured every moment in my mind's eye. We would go sledding, throw snowballs, even build snow forts. Everything was as big as life.
Today, I cringe and mutter as I scrape snow off windshields. My wife isn't thrilled if I slam the back door too hard while cleaning with the front door open, and snow splatters over the front seat. Back in the 'day' we came in wet, soaked form snow, and never thought a thing about it. Today we don't want to sit on wet or cold seats.
So what's really changed? Is it the weather? Is it other changes in the surroundings? Or is it just me and my memory? I'll let you decide.