The winter of ’54 was very cold and blustery in Southington, Conn. We were nearly buried in snow. Sliding (sledding) and ice skating were nearly impossible, and the town’s children didn‘t get to play much that particular winter. I was a wee lad of 13.
The town of Southington owned and operated the “Town Farm,” a place for homeless old men who could get room and board free if they did work on an actual, small farm next to the square, brick building that housed them.
On another section of this same piece of land was an enormous sandpit that had been formed from so much excavation of its contents. This is where the town’s dump trucks loaded sand (later mixed with salt), to apply to the roadways to keep them safe and clear. The line of trucks at the pit was endless that year.
When the bad weather eased up a bit Tanky, my best friend, and I ventured out one morning. He was 2 years older than me, stronger, and someone I could look up to. Our dads were World War II vets and also friends.
We had been trudging through four feet of snow in an area north of the sandpit and had just departed from a secluded, wooded area with a small pond upon which we skated for pleasure and played hockey.
The neighborhood kids who skated on the pond usually joined in with shoveling off the snow. Today Tanky and I felt like watching, instead of joining in the shoveling as we normally did. After all, we were feared by most.
After a couple of hours of not getting anywhere trying to remove the snow, we told the six or seven kids that they could go home. We all agree that the snow removal today was next to impossible. We were hoping the sun would help us out.
My buddy and I hadn’t been paying much attention to where we were going. We were approaching the area of the “Town Farm” and the sandpit. If we had given any thought to our location we would have realized that we were probably in a danger zone because of possible snow drifting. By now the pit, formed by the plow trucks’ digging away the sand, was 30 feet deep.
Suddenly, without warning, Tanky and I stepped off the top edge of the bank onto a soft area where the snow had drifted over night. Instantly, we began to sink in the huge snow bank at an alarming rate. Before we knew what had happened, we were over our heads in snow!
I tried yelling for help, but the snow muffled any sound I could make. I clawed desperately to grab onto anything stationary. With all the strength I could muster, I finally managed to raise my head above the snow. After a minute more of frantically grabbing and pawing at the bank, I was able to pull myself over the top.
All I could see of Tanky was one of his arms waving frantically. I reached out to him, ever so carefully, fearing that I would topple down into the drift again. We finally joined hands for all the joint strength we could muster. After what seemed an hour and much struggling and screaming, I succeeded in pulling Tanky over the top and to safety. We were fortunate that we hadn’t smothered or frozen to death in that forbidding snow. For once, I could be Tanky’s hero.
In another few minutes we had carefully stumbled to the bottom of the pit. Nearby, there were some tree trunks scattered about, and we made a small shelter.
Safely inside, Tanky started a fire. A few minutes later it was out of control in our very small space. We started to panic when we suddenly realized that there was only one way to put out that fire. We did what nature called upon us to do.
Hope your cold, wintry days are safe ones. God bless you.
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