A Rural Observation

Today’s weather event was unremarkable — an inch of snow coated in an icy glaze — but it was enough to freeze the latches on our gates and close schools and daycare. Martin and I split the kid watch in two shifts.

I took the morning slot, working as much as I could while monitoring Brynn’s toy consumption. (In the future Hadley will have to outfit Cinderella with mismatched pink and blue heels.)

While Brynn taste-tested footwear and gnawed on army soldiers, the older kids watched umpteen episodes of Tom and Jerry, and peppered me with questions during commercial breaks. (Mom, what’s 20 plus 5? Mom, what would happen if your head rolled off? Do you believe in aliens? What would you do if a plane lost a wing? Have you ever seen a flying fish?)

By the time Martin trudged across the frozen expanse between barn and house, I was already warming up the car.

The route to work is a network of winding country roads and by early afternoon they were deserted, with rush hour long gone. Even the farm fields were still and empty. I guess most folks left their animals in for the day (our horses went out and they ripped around the field, snorting and spooking at the echo of their own crackly hoof steps).

Eventually signs of life emerged. Near the post office, two boys gamely trudged up a long hill with saucers in tow — a hopeful investment in a sled run dominated by reedy grass and a scant layer of snow.

But the further I went, the more kids appeared. They weren’t playing or sledding or pelting one another with snow balls. They were hunched over tractors and little plows, one hand on the wheel, the other on a control lever, carefully scraping their driveways. Pushing bits of gritty snow from one side to the other.

I spotted different tractor sizes and models — John Deere, Kubota and Ford — some with front-end buckets, others with plow blades, but all of them were manned by pre-teens preoccupied with the task at hand: clearing a pile of slush that wouldn’t fill a Slurpee cup.

And that’s when I realized what snow days are about around here: watching tv and sledding. And driving before your time.