Al Batt: It’s snow joke — there’s no day for a snow day

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

Have you ever had one of those days when everything went right?

Al Batt

I haven’t either.

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A friend claims winter is a joke and the punchline is too long.

Back when solitaire was played with actual cards, I was a newly minted teenager who was sure we wouldn’t have school because of a storm. I didn’t mind blizzards much in those olden days because they led to snow days. I like blizzards today — in a way. Far away. On that ancient day, the snow had fallen in snowmen instead of snowflakes. I knew it’d continue to fall. I’d set my homework aside. There was no need to be bothered with such trivial matters on a snow day. Besides, I’d have been unable to concentrate as the likelihood of a snow day had filled my mind to its capacity. The radio announcer liked to give school closing alphabetically. My school began with an N (No, it wasn’t Numbskull High) and I didn’t have time to wait for the N’s. I had important business.

The first rule of mud wrestling is to fight dirty. The first rule of snow wrestling is to grab a shovel. Our second rule was to fire up the tractor. I’m not sure how much shovel-power our tractor had, but it was more than one. We had an ancient, injury-prone Farmall with a bucket on the front end we used to clear the driveway. The tractor had its idiosyncrasies, but that didn’t bother me, thanks to the cartoon character Bugs Bunny telling everyone to unlax.

Besides, I had my own idiosyncrasies. Seated on that tractor on such a winter’s day was a chilling experience as we’d not yet acquired a heat houser (heater cab or comfort front) to warm the driver. Having a cold tuchus prepared me for life’s bumps. A heat houser, with its canvas sides and plexiglass window, was attached to open station tractors to protect the driver from the elements (it had no roof) and pushed the heat from the engine compartment to the operator’s seat. Having one on a tractor was like being bumped to first class. I digress.

The driveway was crowded with snow, but I could see the future — the end of the driveway and a day free of school. The driveway had its trouble spots where snow accumulated, but I went after the snow as if there were a bounty on it. Snow became the prize pit in an arcade claw machine. I’d almost finished clearing the driveway, needing to finish only a bit at the end by the mailbox, when the school bus, filled with solemn children (the legion of woe), pulled up to where it picked me up five mornings a week. The bus driver yelled, “Are you going to school today?” I refused to desert the Farmall and checked meteorology off the list of things I’d mastered.

The bus made it to school without me. The bus always made it to school. I remember it becoming stuck in the snow only once while en route to the institute of incredible edification. It was a moment pressed into my little black book of golden memories. The bus driver, backing the big, orange conveyance out of a driveway, made a serious mistake. It had nothing to do with his exceptional driving ability. He had trusted the knuckleheads seated in the back of the bus to let him know when the bus had reached the edge of the road. They let him know once the rear of the bus fell into the ditch. There was muted cheering, but we still made it to school. Let the record state that I wasn’t one of the knuckleheads at the back of the bus. I was one of the knuckleheads at the front of the bus.

My mother wrote an excuse slip for me before she drove me to school after I’d made the driveway less treacherous. I rode in a car that would become mine in a couple of years. At least that’s what the rumors said. A friend told me his car burned rubber in all four gears. Our car burned oil in every gear.

The excuse slip read, “Please excuse Allen from school this morning as he was overly optimistic.”

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday.