Growing up in South Alabama, every winter I found myself wishing that I lived up North, up where snow fell and Christmas was white. My parents did not share my desire. They had dealt with a Kansas winter while Daddy trained to defeat Hitler, which he did in the snow during the Battle of the Bulge. They wanted to get home where feeling could return to their fingers and toes.
Over the years, I have found many Alabamians who wished for a winter wonderland. Until they got one.
Like those who weathered the great storm of 1963-64.
I was ringing in the New Year with a cousin in Rayville, Louisiana. The plan was that I would ride the bus to Meridian, Mississippi, change buses, and ride on to Grove Hill.
Then we got a call from my Daddy. He had learned from highway patrol friends that the weather was turning bad, that it might snow, and that bus travel could be canceled. He told me that he would drive up to Meridian and collect me for the trip home.
He would come in our farm truck, a Chevy pickup with mud-grip tires. He loaded cement blocks into the bed for more weight and better traction. Come-what-may, he was ready.
I arrived in Meridian right on schedule, and as I walked from the station to my waiting father the snow began to fall. Big, fat flakes, the likes of which I had never seen.
I piled in the truck and we headed south, listening to radio reports of roads and bridges closing. Bridges were the most troubling because with snow on top and cold air beneath, bridges iced over quickly. Daddy selected a route that was a little longer but crossed fewer streams.
Meanwhile, the snow piled up until all we could see of our two-lane road was the crest in the middle and the tracks of a truck that had taken the route before us. We put our tires into that rapidly filling trail and followed its path. Behind us came Highway Department crews, closing bridges just as we got across. If we had started a half-hour later, we would have been stuck in Mississippi.
I did not have time to enjoy the beauty of the landscape. Even when I wasn’t taking my turn driving, I watched the road, looking for that patch of ice that might send us spinning into the ditch. Every so often we would stop so I could chip the ice off the wipers, which were in tatters when we got home.
Yet home we got.
What normally would have taken just over two hours, took at least four – four slow, tense hours. But at home Mama had a hot meal waiting for her tired men.
The next day I walked through the woods behind our house and enjoyed the beauty of it all.
And vowed not to get into an automobile again until it melted.
That was enough snow-driving for me.
Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Professor Emeritus at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org