Happy New Year!
Here we are once again, staring at the one-time-a-year opportunity for another ‘do over’ or to use a golfers’ favorite word, a ‘mulligan.’
Even way back in Mesopotamia two thousand years ago, folks like you and me celebrated the chance to make amends for past behavior with new resolutions.(their new year wasn’t our new year, but that’s another story)
Down through the centuries, many life-altering events have occurred on January one. In 1660, Samuel Pepys made his first entry in his famed diary. Another was that in 1897, Brooklyn merged with New York to form the city, New York, and the next year, the Lightship replaced the Whistling Buoy on San Francisco Bay.
Earth-shaking events all, however, they all pale in comparison to that the momentous event that took place on the outskirts of Wheeler, Texas on January 1, 1944.
The Great Snowball Battle for Chapman’s Lake!
There had been several heavy snowfalls that year and ongoing snowball battles were common around our small town. Sneak attacks raged across the courthouse square, on the sidewalks, around the corners of the five and dime.
East of town, Chapman’s Dairy overlooked a ten-acre lake. To us boys, however, it was the Pacific Ocean. The pasture rose gently from the water’s shores to the milking barn about a quarter of a mile distant—a perfect sled run.
Now, Mister Chapman never minded us wild-haired boys traipsing across this pastures as long as we didn’t disturb his milk cows. We always gave the herd a wide birth, one of the no small reasons being there were three or four bovines with short tempers. One was especially temperamental. For some reason, her horns had grown down instead of up, and had to be cut to stay out of her eyes.
We called her ‘Crosseye” as well as a few other names when she chased us.
When the snowfall was extra heavy, the cows seldom strayed down to the pastures. Cows don’t paw at snow to remove it from forage like a horse. They push the snow aside with their noses, and if the snow is extra heavy or icy, their noses become tender and the dumbbells just stand there and starve.
Consequently, ranchers and farmers put out feed around the barn in troughs, covered if possible. That meant we usually had the whole snow-covered pasture to ourselves.
That year after Christmas, Jerry, Tony, Donald, and I were building a snow house when several older kids from the other side of town (six blocks away) showed up to challenge us to a snowball fight at Chapman’s Lake where they had built a fort.
We readily accepted the challenge and agreed to the winner-take-all-prize, next Saturday’s popcorn money, a whole nickel. All we had to do was take their flag down from the fort.
Nothing to it. Or so we thought.
When we arrived, we spotted a red flag waving over the small fort. One of the kids had cut it from his Pa’s discarded longjohns. They said it meant ‘no quarter’. That made no sense to me, but a flag was flag.
Leaving our sleds at the top of the hill, the four of us attacked the fort, but were quickly beaten back. Our leader, Jerry, decided we would attack with our tanks, meaning sleds.
We’d fly past the fort, loose a few snowballs, regroup for another pass. His plan sounded good in theory, but we soon discovered it was full of holes. Sitting on a whizzing sled and throwing snowballs called for a delicate balance none of us had mastered.
I fell off more than I rode; Tony crashed into the fort; Donald caromed off one side of the fort into the lake. Jerry was the only one who managed to ride and throw at the same time.
The battle surged back and forth. Each surge took us closer to the flag. Snowballs zipped through the air. I guess all the whooping and hollering reached the herd of milk cows.
That’s the only explanation I have for the garbled bellow that rolled down the hill, jerking all of us around. Our eyes bugged out like stepped-on toad frogs when we spotted Crosseye shaking her head back and forth and charging down the hill in a bovine’s stumbling lope.
Pelting her with snowballs, we took refuge behind what was left of the fort, but she didn’t hesitate. She went over the top, scattering us and taking down the flag.
When the last piece of snow had settled to the ground, Crosseye stood there in triumph, glaring at eight kids sprinting across the pasture in every direction like frightened prairie hens.
They claimed they won because we didn’t get their flag. We claimed Crosseye was our secret agent and since she took down the flag, we won.
They wouldn’t buy that. In the end, we decided upon another battle at another time, but it never came about.
Well, we moved to Fort Worth five years later. She was still in the herd and still as ornery as ever.