In the winters of my discontent

Just before writing this, I made a serious blunder. I looked out the window. Normally, that doesn’t cause distress, but this time it did. I looked out into white stuff, eddying, swirling, blowing, and piling. I immediately began running mental videos of blinding blizzards, dead batteries, snow shovels, spinning wheels, snow-filled ditches, and tow trucks.
Winter travel has not always been bad. Growing up on the prairies, we travelled during winter in a horse-drawn open box on runners. While Dad threw straw on the bottom, Mother gathered quilts and blankets, creating a cosy nest for us kids. Mother would sit on a kitchen chair, positioning it to keep an eye on us and watch Dad’s driving. Wrapped in a travel rug she could just peek over the front for a view of the road. Dad took the position favoured by most prairie men; standing upright he got a good view but exposed the upper half of his body to the weather.
In pitch black, mid-winter evenings, we’d snuggle into our nest when Dad hollered "Gitty-up." Cold, black nights amplify sound, especially for a child viewing the world as a four-by-ten-foot section of starry sky. The rhythmic sound of sleigh bells combined with the slapping and jingling of harness leather and metal fixtures. The crunch of horse hoofs on crisp snow vied with the hiss of runners breaking a new track. Now that was real winter travel. 
However, much later in life, winter travel changed. My worst misadventures occurred while travelling in the winter. In my poor days as a pastor, I bought a used Mercedes. One dark, snowy evening I collided with an Aberdeen Angus cow. The car’s radiator wrapped around the engine, the cow died, and a policeman and a tow truck rescued me.  
The next year, with no money to replace tires, I struggled on through the winter until one bald snow tire blew out during a blizzard on a remote part of Highway 401. Sadly, my spare had gone flat. So I sat with useless tires and no way to get help. A kind policeman took me to a relative in a nearby town who completed the rescue.  
Years later when finances had improved, we headed westward to attend a conference. We drove straight through to Moosejaw encountering blizzards so bad the snow plows disappeared from the roads, leaving us alone slamming our car through massive drifts. My eyes stung and watered from the glare, but we made it on time. Not a week later on the return trip, somewhere near the Sault, my eyes failed. Anna grabbed the wheel, steered us to safety on the shoulder, then drove the rest of the way home.
Sometimes the problems started even before getting under way. About a decade later, I chose to fly to another winter conference in Saskatchewan. No one should go near that place in the winter, but this time I couldn’t get out of Ontario. We waited in London’s airport, for a plane that never came. A major storm had hit, cancelling all flights in and out. We couldn’t even leave the parking lot, and so settled down for a miserable 24 hours in the airport. Next day, the car wouldn’t start because snow had packed the engine compartment. We had to call a tow truck.  
The fun of winter disappeared when I grew up. As an adult I got fed up with getting rescued by police, relatives, tow trucks, and my wife. Now I’ve solved the problem. Either go south, or hunker down and hibernate. See you in the spring.

Ray Wiseman