The first snows would come during this period of time. And, historically, the lake would freeze over during the week of Thanksgiving with ice thick enough for walking from one end of the lake to the other. The snow was beautiful for it would gently cushion the scenery in a gauzy white...turning the pines into instant "flocked" Christmas trees. Usually by the first of December the accumulated snowfall was knee deep.
...and by this time of the year the cycle of snow and cold had set in with a predictable pattern. If the temps warmed up, one could count on the fact that it would be snowing. When the snow stopped the skies would clear and the temperatures would plummet...frequently dropping down to zero degrees (F) or colder. The ground frost would be several feet deep and the ice on the lake would be three to four feet deep...thick enough to hold a car plus a whole host of ice-fishing shacks.
It would be so cold that when one set out to get their freshly cut Christmas tree...and then bring it inside a heated home...it would take at least a day before the tree would thaw sufficiently to be decorated.
With the snow came winter sports. Ice rinks were plowed on the lake(s) and many nights we would have bonfires in the center of the rinks both for warmth and for light...and we would skate until tired and bone cold in spite of the fires. Cross country skiing was fun. Sledding and tobogganing were common past-times.
At the south end of the lake was a resort and golf course that was called Al Capp's (way back when). The hills around this golf course were good for tobogganing because they were steep, fast, and mostly tree-free. Tree-free was a definite plus when riding on a hard-to-steer toboggan at a fast rate of speed.
In the particular year that I am remembering here, four of us close friends (all in our early to mid-teens) spent the afternoon and early evening tobogganing. The four of us were Jack, Hank, Mark and me (names changed to protect the innocent as well as the not so innocent).
Jack was an only child born late to his parents and had an odd body as well as defective eye sight. In his teens he was over six feet tall...all legs and almost no torso. Hank's grand parents owned one of the resorts on the lake. Mark was one of my closest friends at the time. He was a farm kid from one of the most successful local farms. He was also a natural athlete and had one sweet body. ...and that would be a whole 'nother story.
Then there was me. I was not as much of a natural athlete as Mark yet i did not have awkwardness of the other two of our friends. Throughout the year during those years I worked on farms, biked, swam, skated, etc...fit and slim.
On this particular Christmas Eve afternoon/evening we tobogganed many runs down the hills trying to reach faster and faster speeds in spite of the occasional mishap. The temps were hovering around zero (F) and the forecast was for sub-zero (F) during the night. The cold did not phase us because of the way we were dressed as well as the warmth from all of the exercise.
Eventually the pale cold sunlight of the afternoon evaporated with the onslaught of the near arctic type of night and all too soon us pals realized we should be heading home to our families.
Two of us had to head in one direction to get home, the other two headed in the opposite direction. I remember standing on top of a hill with Hank watching Mark and Jack trudging away through the deep snow into the cold night as they headed for home...and each and all of us calling out our wishes for each of us to have a Merry Christmas. In the quiet of the cold evening our voices echoed into the darkening hills.
Hank and I then set off on our very cold walk home. Eventually we came to his grand parents resort and he turned off to go home. My parent's home was another mile or so from the resort and as I continued trudging, toboggan in tow, my thoughts were filled with the idea of warmth, lots of food, and lots of presents!
...And as I finally started walking up the driveway...there was Mom's and Ad's house nestled amongst the snow drifts, snow blanketing the roof, the Christmas tree lights from the tree in the living room window...beckoning me home.
...to be continued