Snow on Snow

Snow on Snow

Alan Sturrock, Wilmington

Growing up back then, there were no weather forecasters.

Plenty of weather, mostly blowing in from the capricious Atlantic Ocean, but no nightly forecasters predicting dire weather events for the next day…or the following day. No predictions of a dusting snow, a nuisance snow or…drum roll… a blizzard snow.  Snow just happened, much to our surprise and delight.

And on islands washed by the Gulf Stream, snow was a delightful inevitability. So, since the weather gods decided to have some fun with our kailyard, we in turn organized some outdoor fun of our own: making slides, sledding, snow footie, and snowball fights. Snowball fights were mostly of the micro variety–small groups of boys and girls hurling fast-assembled snow missiles at each other. Occasionally, someone would organize  a larger event where boys and girls took sides.

Timing  was everything. If memory serves, once upon a mid-December, it started snowing. ‘Snow was falling, snow on snow’** and it snowed seriously all day until teatime, when it morphed into a light dusting which lasted for hours. That’s when Nasty stepped in and using our street ‘fiery cross’ to spread the news, he decided that there was to be the mother of all snowball fights–Raglan Street versus Lord Sarsfield Street [Nasty’s abode]. Seven pm sharpish. Parents were not told about the event at peril of ‘excommunication’ from the brotherhood.

A soft moonlight night added an ethereal atmosphere to the light, almost imperceptible dusting that was gently streaming from the sky. And, slowly, seven o’ clock had not gone to bed long before groups of boys and girls started congregating at either end of one quiet, almost deserted  Raglan Street.

The mother of all snowball fights began slowly and gradually.

Advance youngsters from each side began charging at the other and firing the first snowball volleys. Pretty soon –and I should add, spontaneously–that changed into  serried ranks of youngsters joining battle. The front row would run and throw, then drop back to make some more snowball missiles. They would be replaced by a second row, firing off their snowballs, always edging closer to the ‘enemy.’  At one point, there were three serried ranks, and as we edged closer to each other, we inevitably began hitting our targets–splat, splatter and splatted, again and again and again.

As the snowball fight wore on, there was less and less noise, such was the laser focus of the antagonists. Snowball volleys were accompanied by the occasional grunt or thud [as the exertion landed the youngster on his or her arse]. Sometimes, an adult would wander into the street on their way home from work, stop and watch, and smile about bygone days. We were working ourselves up into a real lather, when the unthinkable happened.

To this day, no one admits to throwing that ice-packed snowball—it’s a secret that will accompany the ‘culprit’ to the grave. But throw it, he or she did. Heading straight for our Wilma Sweeney, in the middle of the first row. And, fortunately for her, Nasty Roche was lined up right next to her on her left-hand side. Now, whether he divined that this was a dangerous snow missile or not or whether he was just indulging in a bit of bravado, he leapt across the front of Wilma’s face and took the full brunt of that ice-packed snowball in his left hand.

He immediately buckled from the blow and fell to the ground, holding the injured hand.

We all stopped on our side and looked. The Raglan Street side also stopped. And waited. Then he emitted a blood-curdling yell and rolled over several times. We looked at each other, then at Wilma. Somehow, she realized from the blood-stained snow next to Nasty’s hand what her face had just been spared.

The next 20 minutes were a blur. The snowball fight ceased to exist.  Someone’s mother [from the Raglan Street group] was a nurse and she was soon on the scene, tending to Nasty. The combatants–for the most part–just faded away into the dusting snow night, leaving a handful of Sarsfield ‘diehards’ keeping vigil on our wounded hero.

Turned out the cut was not as nasty as it looked, but in our minds, it took on the  dimensions of a ‘gash.’ But, like that First & Greatest Sledding Race of the Century, it had been an epic night, just one of many that no one could have forecasted…


** from Christina Rossetti’s poem, in The Bleak Mid-Winter