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Ma Nature's Children

Snow and rain, mud and wind, the good and bad.

 

As I sit at this desk it is Feb. 9, 2013, and it is snowing and blowing outside.

Once upon a time I liked snow; that's because it was thrilling to me. I liked to be out in it, no matter how hard or how softly it was falling, nor how many inches accumulated upon the earth.

I not only liked it, but I loved it! That's because I could do so many things in it. As a kid I built all manner of snow forts; I had innumerable snowball battles to go along with those snow forts. I wonder if kids today still build snow forts?

I also loved to hike in it and would take every opportunity to do so. As you may well guess, I loved to hunt in the snow, too! No matter the conditions, I hunted anyway.

I've always loved to drive in snow. My first true snow vehicles were Volkswagens, including the sportier Karmann Ghia. I soon figured out to pair a set of oversized snow treads on the rear, and I could nigh go anywhere.

I remember one time when my bride and I were first married and we were going to her home for the weekend; it was nearly a blizzard out and dark to boot. Back then we owned his and her Ghias and this trip I was driving the faithful old 1960 version with a diminutive 36-horsepower engine that could barely get out of its way on the pavement, but was sure a terror off-road. I didn't mind because it got 42 measured MPG!

Anyway, the snow was about a foot deep already and all of a sudden the road got very bumpy in a rythmic sort of way. I stopped and opened the door and looked down to behold cut corn stalks sticking up out of the snow!

It turned out that I had missed a left turn in the road and had meandered cross-wise over the rows of cut corn for about 40 yards. No problemo. I merely put the tranny in first gear and let out the clutch and toodled on out of there, nary slipping a wheel. That's because I had long ago learned that with the engine over the rear wheels it gave me great traction with those oversized snow tires. In all, in my younger years (before the age of 50), I owned a total of 11 VWs. They were great fun snow and mud vehicles!

When I graduated to a two-wheel-drive pickup, it was a 1970 Datsun. I took it off-roading in Southern California and soon got it stuck! I remembered my VW adventures and quickly put oversize snow treads on the rear and then layered a row of cinderblocks in the bed and covered those with plywood. I covered a lot of snowy roads with that Datsun and never got stuck.

In 1985 I bought my first new four-wheel-drive pickup, a Ford F150, and three years later moved out to New Mexico with it. It was here that I learned the number-one rule of four-wheel driving: It allows you to get stuck even deeper in the snow!

But I digress. I used to like to sled in the snow, too — at least I did until I tried it after a many-year layoff, at age 65. I soon learned that tubing is not for the old-at-heart, nor is sledding..

 

I probably lost my love affair with snow back in my mid-50s. Part of the reason was that where we live, snowfall had become very rare for some years, and I lost the ability to drive comfortably in it; as with everything, it takes practice to keep up.

With that loss, eventually I came to hate the white stuff! It is beautiful to behold while it is snowing and possibly for the first two hours after; then it becomes a pain.

After the snow comes the meltdown and that means mud, lingering mud. Ugly brown mud. I hate mud, too. It is hard to drive off-road in, and messy in the house. If I go for a hike, my boots get muddy and no matter how I try to clean them I bring mud in my soles.

I also have to fetch a bucket of warm, soapy water to wash the dog's feet before they can enter my domain. What a pain. It wouldn't be bad if the snow melted and went away all at once, but it lingers for weeks in shady places, making for that dang mud to ambush all our feet.

I will grudgingly admit that when God made snow, He made it with a good point: As it lingers, it slowly sinks into the parched soil and surface-feeds the many plants and trees that desperately need it. By lying upon the leafage it also slowly quenches the thirst that drought-parched vegetation needs. I can appreciate both of those points.

 

I like Ma Nature's other child — rain! Unlike snow, it comes and goes and soaks right in and then leaves not much of an after-thought. Around my place the soil is pretty much dry in anywhere from an hour to a day after the rainfall. That means it doesn't much limit my outdoor activities.

I still like to hike in the summer rain, if it is not too cold. And not much beats the pleasure of being under the roof of a tent, tarp or metal roof when the rain falls; I love the soothing sound it makes no matter how hard the rainfall.

Rain has several great purposes. It cleanses the air from pollution and dirt. It also cleans the streets and roads from oil. It waters the plants on a short-term basis, and the aquifiers on a long-term basis. A good flashflood from a torrential downpour does wonders for filling tanks, dams and streams.

Yeah, I like rain, especially two types: the thunderous lightning storm that comes quickly and almost overwhelms us, and also the slow, mild, all-day-long variety that soothes and calms my nerves.

The only possible negative effect of rain on me is that I hate those days on end when it never quits raining and the dreaded humidity comes along with it. Boring.

 

As I alluded to before, I hate Mother Nature's mud. I see no good use for it. It is obnoxious and meddling in the daily affairs that I do. It is ugly to look at and not at all soothing. I have gotten stuck in it both with my feet and with vehicles. I've seen cattle mired in it and horses, too. What good is it?

I don't much like wind, either. It limits what I can do. In winter it is cold, and in summer it can be annoying. Notice I'm not talking about wind's cousin, the breeze. Breezes I can live with and embrace. In my latter years, though, I have trouble hearing what is going on in the wind — not good. I have to wear more clothing if it is windy and cold. I just don't like it. Wind also creates sandstorms and dust devils; they can be a real hazard to all manner of life forms.

I remember one time when we were moving to New Mexico and were somewhere on the road; my wife was driving the Ford. Along came a sudden dust devil and with it a big chunk of wood that swirled right into her path, colliding just at the edge of the top of the windshield. It left a big, dented reminder of what dust devils can do, and had that chunk hit into the windshield I hate to imagine what would have happened to her and the kids.

I will grudgingly admit that there is good to the wind. In its favor, it does dry out that ugly old mud. It also fluffs up and makes the soil loamy in the springtime, and for some reason, I like loamy soil. It is good for seed planting and hiking both.

Wind also is a cruel but necessary tool to take out the weak and sickly in nature. We soon find out what needs to stay or go when it comes to wind and trees. Wind also blows the dust away, but it causes havoc as it does so.

I could go on, but I'm out of space. As always keep the sun forever at your back, the wind forever in your face, and may The Forever God bless you.

 

 

When not Ramblin' Outdoors, Larry Lightner lives in Silver City.




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