Skip to content

COLUMN: How one views snowfall changes as the years pass

As a kid it's about shinny and snowballs, but suddenly it's shovelling techniques and making sure you have enough windshield washer fluid, writes Bob Bruton
USED20200216 good morning guelph ts 2
File photo. | Tony Saxon/Village Media

Winter’s recent arrival is a reminder of how differently children and adults view snow.

When you’re a kid, the white stuff is something to play in or with, or turn into a snowball to hurl at friend or foe.

When you’re all grown up, though, snow is something to shovel from your driveway and sidewalks, drive through or just generally curse.

What I remember about snow, growing up in a little northern Ontario town, is the banks towering above me on the walkway leading up to my home, how you couldn’t see anything but white all the way to the front door.

It wasn’t like today, when the snow comes in late November and then takes us through several cycles of freeze and thaw, freeze and thaw, through January and February, until spring comes, usually before the end of March.

When I was a kid, it seemed like the snow came right after Thanksgiving and lasted deep into April. That’s why there was so much urgency to rake all the leaves from our yard by Thanksgiving. Wet leaves in springtime are a nightmare to rake.

Mitchell Henderson picks a corner on the outdoor rink at Centennial Park in Barrie in this file photo. | Kevin Lamb/BarrieToday

In winter, almost every home in my little neighbourhood seemed to have a patch of ice in the backyard. There were no rink kits back then. You cleared the snow into four banks, levelled off the snowy, frozen ground and grass, then got the garden hose out.

OK, I didn’t. My dad did.

He’d stand out there in the freezing cold, his gloves getting wet from lack of water pressure and a leaky hose, but never shirking his Canadian, fatherly duty — like all the other dads in our neighbourhood. 

You’d play hockey after school, after dinner and on the weekends.

And yet none of us, me and my friends, made it to the National Hockey League — despite our many, many hours honing our stickhandling, dekes, wrist-shooting, slap-shotting or skating skills, not to mention our backhands and well-placed elbows and slashes.

Back in the day, we also used to walk to and from elementary school and the journey, at least in winter, was always a snowball battle.

There were plenty of places to hide and ambush, or be ambushed, but these little skirmishes didn’t last long.

You still had to get to school on time, or you’d hear it from your mother, and if you were late getting home and your dad had to go looking for you, it was even more trouble. 

But snowball fights are not the domain of any one generation.

My son, who just turned 29, was once upon a time a King Edward School student in Barrie; walking home, he tired of another kid hitting him with snowballs and threw one back, really nailing the kid. Guess where my son’s shortstop arm came from?

Anyway, the kid’s dad mentioned calling the police and I told him what I suspected the police would tell him: If you throw snowballs at people, expect to get thrown at and hit yourself.

No call to law enforcement was made, or at least not one that came back to me or my son.

Not that this was funny. Perish the thought.

Snow is not nearly as much fun as snowball fights most of the time you’re an adult, of course.

It piles up at the end of your driveway, along with ice, so you don’t dare ram your car through it and avoid shovelling.

A little hard shovelling is always preferable anyway to a trip to the auto mechanic to get your car’s underside repaired.

And clearing your sidewalks is always better than someone slipping and falling, then calling their lawyer.

There’s no avoiding snow, however, when you have to drive through that crap when it’s also falling on you.

Make sure your car windows are defrosted and there’s plenty of windshield washer fluid in the tank, for the inevitable splash of salt and general guck from other vehicles on the road.

And clean the snow from your car’s roof, so you aren’t blinding the driver behind you with your own personal snow squall. It’s a sure way to get rear-ended.

It was, of course, snowing as I wrote this, trying to avoid going outside, even to walk the dog (which will still happen) or to shovel the driveway (which might or might not happen).

But what’s more Canadian than snow stories?

Bob Bruton covers city council for BarrieToday. A long, long time ago, after Barrie got about four feet of snow one night, he had to use a rented four-wheel drive SUV to get to a council meeting. It wasn’t worth the effort. Slow news night.