Winter family entertainment

By Elton Camp

The unusually deep snowfall provided an exemption from work except for seeing to the needs of the animals. After that, the children could play. “Let’s build a sno’man,” Jean suggested.

Some snows were dry and crumbly, unsuitable for forming the necessary large snowballs. This one was just right. The snowman began as a lump of snow about the size of a softball. The children rolled the lump in the snow so that it picked up layer after layer. They were careful to make it as round as possible.

“This un’s big enuf fer th’ bottom,” Howard declared. “Let’s start on th’ middle.”

They repeated the steps, but stopped when the snowball was slightly smaller than the first one.

“We musn’t make it so big we can’t lift it,” Leamon cautioned. “Snow’s heavy.”

Four of the children worked together to heave the ball atop the base. They packed extra snow where the balls met to hold them together and to give their creation a better waistline. A much smaller ball of snow made an admirable head.

Two rocks served as eyes. A brown stick became a nose.  No hat was worn out enough to be placed on its head.  The snowman was complete.

“Birdie, fetch me ah bucket o’ thet snow ’n’ I’ll make us some snow cream,” Belle called out. She stood on the side porch holding an enamel bucket. “Be shore t’ git hit from a deep place thet’s clean.”

The recipe was a simple one: mix snow with cream from the cow’s milk, then add white, granulated sugar and drops of Watkins vanilla flavoring. She stirred the ingredients, adding snow as necessary, until it reached an icy consistency. All agreed that snow cream was one of the best things about winter.

Because the deep snow kept them near the house and yard, the adults had to entertain themselves as best they could. Milas and Belle pursued one of their favorite pastimes, playing dominoes. Milas had a set of double nines. Most sets only went to double sixes. He placed the black rectangles on the kitchen table with the spots down and slid them around until they were randomly assorted. Each drew seven dominoes to start. He always went first.

Multiples of fives scored points. The end dominoes all around were the ones added to make the determination. An intricate pattern of turns developed as the game progressed. Milas kept score on a paper from a brown sack. Playing the game had enabled Belle to learn to count and add quickly. Both were considered to be skilled players.

Milas laid down a five-blank. “Thet’s five fer me,” he said.

On a brown paper sack that substituted for a note pad, he placed an “M” to the left and a “B” to the right. Beneath his initial, he placed a vertical mark to represent five points. Belle placed a double blank at a right angle to the matching end of his domino.

“Then add five fer me,” she crowed.

As the game continued, Milas eventually found that none of his dominoes matched available ends. He had to “go to the bone yard.”  That meant drawing from the remaining dominoes until he found one he could play.

The first player to use all the dominoes gained all the points of the remaining tiles of the opponent.

By the end of the game, each of them had earned a considerable score. Belle won about as often as Milas. He didn’t seem to mind.

The snow cover slowly diminished over the following week until only patches remained in shaded spots. The snowman survived several days longer. It gradually shrank, became unbalanced, and fell. Life for the family returned to what was normal for the winter.

When spring arrived, it was time for the exciting annual visit to the carnival.  We’ll accompany the family next time.