The Union Recorder

February 15, 2014

ROWLAND: You find out who you can trust when the ice breaks beneath you

Mike Rowland
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Forty years of perspective has a way of changing the way we view things. Case in point:  This past week’s ice/sleet/snow event might have been fun for children, but it is a nail-biting inconvenience for us adults. After all, losing power, downed pine trees, and potential damage to my house is not listed anywhere in my personal dictionary under fun.

I did get a couple of days off from work, which I suppose did bring out the kid in me, but even still, I kept up using my trusty Blackberry. During Snow Jam 2014, I also missed two days of work. That time I even worked from my trusty laptop.

Just can’t afford to get two days behind.

I’m not sure what moniker will be attached to this newsworthy weather event, but it ought to be a doozy. I’ll give the people of Atlanta credit. The roads were empty. The local television stations had a field day. Local restaurants did not.

As for me, even I got a little stir crazy. So Mama and I took off this morning for a walk down the icy streets of Decatur just to get out of the house. We left Otis behind because snow and ice throw him into a tizzy. Honestly. He acts like a 4-year-old who has never seen snow. He wants to run and play and just generally act the fool.

We did that yesterday. I needed some quiet time this morning. The snow scenery was picturesque, and we found a little coffee shop on the edge of town that was open. A blueberry muffin and a mug of hot chocolate later, and not only had we satisfied our own curiosity of what everything looked like in the snow, but we had also gotten in our exercise for the day.

Of course, as of this writing, the sun has changed the white landscape into a slushy mess. The long range forecast shows next weekend will be in the 70s, and I have to tell you I am about ready for it.

I was reminded, however, of the storm of 1973. Just so you know, I was 13 years old in 1973. I tell you that to say: My memory of the event may not be as clear as it once was. I started to do a little Google searching just to see if I remembered the events correctly, but then I figured it’s my column so I can remember things any way I want.

Refer to my previous comment on perspective.

So in 1973, early February if I remember correctly, I was in the seventh grade. It started to snow some time around 9 a.m. That sticks out in my mind because I was in English class, which was preceded by the morning break.

Once the flakes started to fall, and they were huge, fluffy, wet ones, school sort of just ended. Knowing now how schools operate, I am sure there was some order to the whole leave school early event, but I don’t remember it.

I do remember opening the window in Mr. Oscar Anderson’s classroom and jumping out right into the snow. Hey, no one was looking, and I was a teenager. What did you expect?

I also remember talking one of the coaches into taking me home so that I wouldn’t have to ride the bus. His house was somewhat on the way, and I seem to remember that he drove a sky blue comet. I lived on a hill, and when he pulled out of my driveway and hit the gas to climb the incline, well his tires spun like they might have already seen too much road wear.

He got home OK, and that singular event put him in the Mike Rowland People Who Made a Difference Hall of Fame. About 10 years later, he attended my wedding, and 15 years after that he helped build a golf course in the town where I lived. We had lunch together when it opened, but I didn’t bring up the 1973 snow thing.

Now I have no idea how long the storm lasted. After all, for a 13-year-old, time is really an inconsequential factor. I do know that it snowed 16 inches over the next few days. My dad owned a 1966 VW Beetle, and that was the first time I ever knew that it wouldn’t crank due to cold.

That was, of course, until I got married, secured my first real job, and depended on it as my primary mode of transportation. That, however, is a story for another day.

So for several days, all of us kids in the neighborhood played in waist deep snow. I lived a little out from town so we had woods to roam in, and I do remember the woods were gorgeous. And, as you might imagine, there was one event from that storm that my memory just won’t turn loose.

Let me see if I can make this short. After all of that snow fell, it got colder than a polar bear’s nose stuck to an iceberg. Being as kids played outside in all manner of weather back then, and being as how my dad had introduced me to deer hunting in really cold weather, I knew to wear layers of clothes.

Many, many layers of clothes.

A few buddies and I found our way to an old dry creek bed about a mile from my house. It had previously filled with water and now had frozen over with ice.

The ice looked sturdy enough to support my weight, and being the adventurous one in the group, you see where this is going, don’t’ you?

I think it was about the third step when the ice began to crack, water from beneath bubbled to the surface, and a nice hole formed in the ice coincidentally large enough for my 13-year-old body to fall through.

Completely through. Over my head, as I recall. I managed to pull myself up onto the ice that was sturdy enough to support my weight, climb out of the water and onto the bank, and begin looking around for my friends - I use the term friends loosely.

Remember those layers of clothes? Those many, many layers of clothes? Every stitch was soaking wet, I now weighed an extra 50 pounds, and my so-called friends were nowhere to be found.

Lucky for me, I knew my way home. I started down the pig path that led the mile or so back to my house when my friends reappeared. I’d still like an explanation of what that was all about! Cowards.

I will give them credit, however, for walking me home once they knew I hadn’t drowned. Somehow that was supposed to make me feel better about them. It did not. We all remained friends, but you find out who you can trust when the ice breaks underneath you.