Sleigh races in Chestertown. Source: Kent County Historical Society.

If you have been reading my stories in the Kent Pilot, it would be hard to miss the fact that I often rely on memories to create them. Telling these stories is fun for me, but my underlying hope has always been to encourage others to recall their memories and share them. I know my parents and grandparents went to their graves with so many untold stories I would treasure today.

Had I realized this earlier, I might have many more stories to tell and pass along. I can’t decide if these new devices are making sharing memories easier or just getting in the way. A bit of both? Maybe so.

Last Friday when I went for a ride through a snowy landscape, I had one of those flashbacks that led to this story. My earliest memories somehow always seem to be even happier when there was snow on the ground.

In the foothills of South Carolina we did not get much snow, so when we did it was exciting–fun–and a big snow, even challenging. Of course, as kids we did all the normal things–building snowmen, having snowball fights, sledding and making snow ice cream.

Old country mill. Source: loc.gov.

Santa Claus brought me my first shotgun when I was ten years old. It was a single-shot 20-gauge. I remember that Christmas well. It was an unusually white one. It also fell on a Sunday and my father, who I never thought of as being a terribly religious man, would not let me shoot my new shotgun on the “Lord’s Day.” Sheer torture! I was not allowed to use that gun alone for a couple of years, while my dad taught me to hunt safely–mostly for squirrels in our woods or trying to hit Chimney Sweeps (birds that lived in our chimney) as they returned for the night. Great for target practice.

One of the best snowfalls I remember must have been shortly after I was allowed to hunt alone. It was amazing how quiet our woods were when covered in snow. My imagination took over, and, with shotgun in hand, I became Daniel Boone tracking a black bear or stalking a deer–neither of which lived in our woods. There was something emotional about being deep in our few acres of woods with no other man-made sounds–just me and a few birds trying to scratch up a seed or two.

Then there was the winter storm that challenged us all. We lost power for a couple of days. That meant no water, no heat or lights, or phone. No driving– the roads were a sheet of ice. We moved into the living room where we had a big fireplace, and firewood in the basement. We stayed warm and my dad, who had done a lot of camping, took over the open-fire cooking. After a day and night of keeping a roaring fire going, the wood pile was getting low.

The second morning, my dad and I bundled up and walked about a mile to Mosteller’s Mill–a very old corn mill on the banks of the North Tyger River. The Mosteller brothers, who I recall as being at least a hundred years old, ran the mill and a small one-room store tucked away in one corner of the building. As we started out on what I looked at as an adventure, my dad said, “If anybody is out and about, it will be the Mosteller brothers.”

The little store was open, with a few men sitting around a cherry-red stove. My dad first asked if they knew of anyone delivering firewood. Yes, they knew a fellow with a mule and wagon who seemed to be getting around ok. “The next time he passes by, we’ll get him to bring you a load.” They had no idea when that would be, so my dad bought two big hundred-pound flour sacks full of dry corn cobs. We lugged those bags home and burned corn cobs that night.

Author’s high school girlfriend, Cherry, in the snow.

The biggest snowfall I remember was the winter of my senior year of high school. My mother’s car was a 1953 two-tone, straight-stick Chevrolet with fender skirts and whitewall tires. That was when cars were made for courting–bench seats with the gear shift on the steering column. My girl, Cherry, could slide over close to me and, with my right arm around her shoulder, she would change the gears. My dad used to laugh and say when we were behind a courting couple, “Look, that car takes two people to drive it.”

I worked at a tire recapping shop on Saturdays, so when snow was predicted, I put snow tires on the rear wheels of that Chevy and was ready to go. Nothing was going to keep me from my girlfriend’s house and a day of sledding with friends.

Today, my sledding days are long gone, and, I am much more cautious, but I still look forward to a good snowfall.

Keep those masks on and watch your step.