Normally, I write this column on Sunday evening, but, on occasion, I find myself sitting down early Tuesday morning to do it. So it has been this week. As I sit in my study looking out on the snow coming down at a fast pace, I find myself thinking about days like today when virtually everything comes to a grinding halt as Mother Nature reminds us that she still is in control.
I don’t live in Lawrence. Instead I have a small acreage in northern Douglas County not far from Lecompton. There aren’t very many houses out my way, and most of the land is still under cultivation. So instead of watching cars skidding uncontrollably on city streets I get to see cows standing out in the snow still looking peaceful and my neighbor putting the plow on his tractor. I am constantly in his debt on snowy days since in his generous way he not only plows his drive but mine as well.
I realize that bad snowstorms can wreak havoc on business, close schools and endanger folks who have to go out. But I have to admit I like snow days, not because I get to stay home from work — since I do most of my work, i.e. writing — at home, but, rather, because snow days are so quiet and peaceful. As an historian I appreciate having days when most modern concerns and such things as automobiles and trucks are absent.
It’s on days like this that I can imagine an earlier Kansas, a Kansas in which most of the population earned their keep on the land. I close my eyes and I think about what a day like today would have been like 100 years ago before there were highways and when automobiles were still fairly scarce. Many folks would have gotten out their sleds and seen the snow as an opportunity for wholesome outdoor fun.
Today we stay inside and play video games or surf the Internet. One hundred years ago those who had kept their horses wouldn’t have had to worry about being snowbound. If they had a sleigh, they could have hitched up the horses, wrapped themselves in carriage rugs or furs and headed straight to town with no fear.
The threat of power outages would have been non-existent. Oil and gas lamps continue to provide light regardless of whether there’s electricity. As for heat, most of our ancestors would have stocked up on wood for the stove and fireplace long before the storm hit. They’d be sitting in front of the fire, listening to it crackle and warming themselves oblivious to the blizzard outside.
Of course, not everything was better in blizzards of yesteryear. There are some modern conveniences I would not want to give up. I certainly do not feel any nostalgia for outhouses and the joy of running through the snow and ice only to spend a freezing few minutes in an unheated outhouse. But life is never perfect.
So, I’m not all that sad about today’s snowstorm. I’ve got wood gathered to put in our fireplaces. My oil lamps are filled in case the power goes out. Unfortunately, I have neither horses nor sleigh, but I’m perfectly happy to sit at home and read and write and play with the dogs and dream about a simpler world.