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The First Snow: Breaking Through

I survived being stranded in the snow—and earned myself a new level of respect.

While beautiful and fun, snow can also be treacherous. A winter’s first snow in central Minnesota remains etched in my memory 80 years later. Large flakes started drifting down in the early morning from a slate-colored sky and continued well into the night, turning into a squall and gradually a blizzard. It was a freakish weather event that seemed especially unusual because it was the season’s first snow. After the sun emerged, we discovered that our farmhouse was buried in a huge drift. My brothers had to tunnel us out. By then the snow had frozen and I, the youngest and lightest, showed off by walking on top of the crust.

While preparing lunch, Mama realized we had no sugar. I immediately volunteered to buy some at Lindgren’s, the general store in town, some three miles away.

I begged to go. I had a compelling incentive. The store proprietor gave me a penny candy whenever I came in. Mama reluctantly gave me a quarter for five pounds of sugar, bundled me up and sent me shopping. The crust held as I gingerly crossed a large field and the Great Northern railroad tracks to reach the town of Monticello’s paved sidewalks. The way to Main Street was fairly clear, so I made good time. The proprietor was so glad to see me, he gave me two pieces of candy. I felt amply rewarded.

As I was homeward-bound, the crust suddenly broke and I sank chest-deep into the soft marshmallow stuff beneath the top layer. I was surprised that the extra five pounds I was carrying made such a difference. Whatever I did to free myself from the snow pit failed. The crust broke every time I scrambled to get on top of it. As I stopped to rest after one prodigious try, it occurred to me that the sugar, the crust and I had no sense of teamwork. Setting the sugar aside on the icy top and packing some snow together beneath me to step on, I managed to get up high enough to roll out of my trap. The crust held. I slithered on my belly like a seal to the bag, shoved it ahead and slithered after it. Slithering and shoving, I arrived home with the sugar.

My family had worried I was lost. When I told them about my single-handed victory over nature, something happened. I didn’t know what “respect” meant at the time, but ever after the day of that first snow, my family gave me more of it.

The AARP Bulletin’s "What I Really Know" column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit short personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online. Boris W. Kuvshinoff is a reader from Baltimore, Md.

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