“Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood.”—Andy Goldsworthy, British sculptor, photographer, and environmentalist.
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Crafting a column about weather in Texas that will not see the light of ink and paper or digital pixels for several days can be tricky stuff. We all know that today’s forecast can change in two or three hours, let alone days.
As I was writing this last weekend for print publication Wednesday, the weather prognostication through this week was calling for sleet, snow, freezing rain, and temps lower than Black Friday Sale prices. However, I knew it was possible that by Wednesday we could be basking in sunny and 70 degrees. Turns out the weather forecasters were on the mark this time.
But even when bitter winter weather wreaks havoc in our lives, there is always something magical about childhood memories of excitement in the snow and ice. For that matter, even a few adult memories can seem magical, depending on how one defines magical … or adult
Like the day back before I acquired good sense when classes were canceled at East Texas State University after a wave of winter snow and ice clobbered Commerce. With a reprieve from the books and teacher’s looks, some of us decided it would be great fun to make an ice rink out of a huge iced-over parking lot located, to the best of my memory, near the student center and Gee Lake. Instead of skates, however, we found fun on the ice with our cars.
A little acceleration and various brake, steering, and throttle applications provided spinning out of control rides ending on a grassy lawn between the parking lot and Highway 11 where we slowly made our way back to start the fun over again. And great fun we were having until we noticed a new player in the slip and slide activity: a plain Ford sedan with red lights on top and “campus security” on the doors. Parking lot car skating must have been a new activity to them, however. We stood by our cars and waved as they went sliding right past us. Once they did manage to stop, they were quick to also put a stop to our fun.
Some ten years or so later, I like to think I had acquired a little bit of sense, but evidently not enough to prevent me from taking a bus trip across West Texas in an ice storm: a journey that added new meaning to “taking the scenic route.”
“One way to Dallas,” I told the agent, remembering three hours flat and driving the speed limit was a decent time for this trip. “Will the snow pose travel problems to Dallas.”
With a short “no,” I was handed my ticket to some real excitement. In addition to that inaccurate travel information, not disclosed was a seemingly sub-sonic travel time of little more than two hours, including stops in every burg along I-20 boasting at least 10 inhabitants and a convenience store.
The big silver dog express danced on the slippery super slab passing every creeping car and truck in the night. Gotta give the driver credit, though. He missed not one single icy spot as the bus did a series of Texas Two Steps with each one until the wheels accidentally caught the next patch of pavement.
While it was scary, there were memorable moments. A young man toward the rear of the bus traveling with his guitar broke into song. “They say music soothes the soul,” said a nice lady behind me traveling to Mobile with her daughter. “Join us in the singing.” I tried but just couldn’t pick up on the next verse of “Magic Carpet Ride.”
It was a night trip, so I tried to sleep. I’ve always said I hope to die in my sleep. But, truthfully, I had something more peaceful in mind than a bus careening off an icy highway going down Ranger Hill on I-20.
Every slip and slide elicited screams from the women, various expletives from the men, and both from the pregnant lady about two rows up. A couple of older guys across the aisle were taking wagers on when she was going to deliver. One bet on somewhere between Cisco and Strawn while the other put his money on the stretch between Weatherford and Aledo. She didn’t deliver during the trip, but the bus driver did. He brought us into Dallas at 10 minutes to midnight and 15 minutes ahead of schedule.
Through the icy winter weather this week, I found myself still working on that good sense thing remembering the days when excitement on the snow and ice seemed magical. I have decided one thing. At this point in life, it’s much more magical viewed through my breakfast room window at home than the windshield of a spinning car or a careening bus.
On the serious side of often dangerous weather like we’ve endured the last few days, I sincerely hope that as temps are rising, everyone has either recovered from the week’s historical event, or is close enough to recovery to see the end. Also, at this point in life, I have a sufficient number of magical memories from every age without adding new ones.
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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune, the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.
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