The Farm Chronicles: The old brown snowsuit

If you grew up in the Northeastern Ohio snowbelt, you remember the fierce snowstorms. It goes beyond the ever-growing legends about walking five miles to school in the winter, in three feet of snow, and barefoot—for a little added emphasis. In our case, school was too far away for us to walk, but the barn wasn’t. And the animals needed fed and tended to no matter what the weather. When we weren’t doing the farm chores, we may have been inside the house trying to stay warm. As a kid about five years old, I remember the old farm house was not well-insulated. The cold would come breezing through, and sometimes snow would accumulate around doors and windows on the inside. And then there were parents.

Parents didn’t like you having idle time around the house. In our house, we might get a little bit of time, maybe an hour or two (if it was really cold outside) to watch Roy Rogers or Sky King on TV on a Saturday morning. That is, if we could zone in one of the three channels and find the program through the “snow” on the old television set. I spent a lot of time manning the North-South-East-West knob on the antenna rotator trying to get a clearer picture. But back to the parents. Maybe you would just get the picture you wanted and the show would be over, and it was time to go outside to “play.” Oh joy! Mom would say that she couldn’t just have me sitting around watching TV. Time to go out.

Then the process would start. Go upstairs and find a clean pair of long underwear in the dresser. While I was reluctantly putting on the long underwear, Mom was digging through all the jackets and flannel shirts hung on nails in the stoop going down to the cellar. “Ah, there it is,” she would say, pulling out an old brown thick wool snowsuit that likely had been passed down in our family since my Dad used it when he was about six years old. Every brother wore it in the winter until they outgrew it. I mean it was thick, lined with flannel and the pants had buttons on the front and back where suspenders were attached to make sure the weight of the pants would not slip down and let the cold air in on your back. Now these were really difficult to get in to. Took about 20 minutes to suit up.

Once I got the pants on and suspenders fastened, next came an equally thick brown wool coat. Got that on with Mom’s help. Then the goulash boots with the little track fasteners that each of them had to be levered into place. I couldn’t bend over because of the snowsuit, so Mom had that job. Then mittens and wool stocking cap. I was beginning to sweat when she opened the door and I waddled on out into the frozen tundra, slipped on the ice and face planted in the crusty snow. Couldn’t get up because the snowsuit was too thick. Rolled over on my back, angry and crying. Mom rushes out, picks me up. And just like that, the playtime was finished. But it took another ten minutes to peal that brown snowsuit off. Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart devises his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Yes, the Lord works in mysterious ways.

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Bill Wilson