A memory of a buried March that is not buried by time

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This month always has had odd weather but usually not involving this heat.

By Steve Doyle

Spring fever is supposed to arrive early in March, when you see the first robin, the bright yellow of an occasional daffodil, things green, abud and, well, warming.

Spring fever is not supposed to be a full-blown summer sweat at the strike of the vernal equinox.

It’s not as if there isn’t always plenty to talk about with basketball, politics, religion, economics, basketball, politics and, I don’t know, movies, but today we have to talk about the weather, because everyone is.

First we had no autumn, and now we have no spring. Pretty soon that play we had in third grade about the four seasons – I was fall, but there was no reason for my season – will be a one-person passion play. You know, “I, Summer” – or something like that. Maybe Dixie Nutt Taylor can reprise her co-starring role.

But I digress…so, everything cool with you?

That the thermometer pushed 90 on the first day of spring is a bit much. I’m a believer in the phenomenon of climate change – don’t paint me politically; I simply subscribe to the science – and never has it seemed more achange than in the past year.

Can the folks in Henryville and West Liberty and their neighbors – not to mention thousands in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Illinois and Texas (and increasingly more states) – not testify to its tornadic tenacity? But violent weather, though more prevalent, remains random.

What isn’t is the underarm-ring obviousness that the effects of summer are taking over the calendar.

First the leaves fell as we sweated profusely.

Then winter came and went with a lowest temperature above single digits and no substantial snowfall until, well, March. And even that was a fling, a flirt.

We took out our snow pants one day, and replaced them with our short pants the next.

I know that Kentucky established the adage of “if you don’t like the weather, stick around five minutes” – which has been copied and aped by many regions in recent years, sort of like how the NCAA Tournament stole the best banners for the Kentucky high school tournament – but this is the truest form of March Madness.

And I have to admit that I am as stunned as you.

After that lambish winter, I was predicting a lot of lion this month.

First, last fall I had seen an all-black wooly worm in my yard, and that scared me for months -- thought of getting a snow blower, stuff like that – but then I just went more with the good ol’ Kentucky windage, if you will, and expected history to repeat itself.

All you have to do is dial up the Way-Back Machine (thank you, Mr. Peabody) and travel to a March in the early 1960s – my memory says it was 1962, but it could’ve been a year earlier.

There was this Saturday that year when snow began to fall before sunrise. The wind howled, the sky was black and furious. I don’t even have to close my eyes to see the image of the barns and fields out the backdoor of my grandparents’ home, where I was holed up after spending the night.

The snow kept pounding down in what may have not been a true blizzard but was sure a chilling imitation of one.

The wind turned artiste, sweeping the new-fallen flakes into delicate and impressive ridges that banked against anything that would stop the wind.

Some parts of the ground would be almost barren, as if only a dusting of snow had fallen, but it was at the bottom of a crest that could be 2 feet or 3 feet deep, maybe more, that depth determined mostly by the barrier against which it was blown.

The snow finally stopped that evening, but we awoke on Sunday to a landscape of confection, sort of like the top of an ice cream cone you would buy at the Tastee Freeze that used to be on U.S. 60 east of Shelbyville.

I’m sure the little curves on the tips of some of those drifts must have infringed on a copyright or a trademark, but all of that was paralyzingly buried.

Todds Point Road, where we lived, was nothing but one big snowfield.

My uncle, Bob Doyle, was on his way home for a weekend leave from the Navy, when about a half-mile from home he had to stop and park his 1955 Chevy right in the middle of the road, where he returned the next day to find it buried right to the top on most sides.

My dad, returning that same night from work, had to park his car in the lot of the old Buckman’s store and post office, about a  hundred feet north of the railroad in Simpsonville, and walk the mile or so home, which turned out to be fortuitous.

The roads simply weren’t passable, forget salting, scraping and spraying them with brine. That would have been wasting resources.

But when you are a child of 8 or 9, such moments are much less paralysis than party. No school, no sweat. Let’s have some fun.

Gerald and Barry Terrell, our neighbors, dug a snow tunnel/fort in a wall of snow that blew against a ditch across from their house. We threw snowballs and played games and probably tried to build a snowperson – that eludes me.

But here’s my final major memory: Early in the week, my uncle had to return to his Naval base in Norfolk, Va., but his car remained buried in the road.

U.S. 60 was pretty much passable, we had heard, so he, my dad and I walked to my dad’s car in Simpsonville so we could drive him to the airport. Only the snow was so deep in the road, we had to trudge through pasture land and hop over fences, quite a grueling struggle for a short-legged kid in 4-buckle overshoes.

But we made the trek and later hiked home, only to sit and wait for another day or so until the odd sight of two bulldozers going in opposite directions finally returned the little road to something near passable.

You can tell, I hope, that this was such a monumental event that it has lived for decades, fresh and vivid in my declining mind.

Did I mention that was in March?

Doesn’t seem like it is today either, does it?