Snow Angels With Dirty Faces

Winter at our “77 Acres” was cold and very white. Snow softened the landscape, turning rough scrub brush and sand into a gentle rhythm of curves and ripples. Our wild and scruffy surroundings had been cleansed and elevated by a thin layer of white, and the result was like it had snowed on the moon. Frosted evergreens marked the frontier of what had now become a starkly beautiful scene.

Of course the best thing about snow for my sister Kim and me was playing in it! We bundled up as fast as we could and raced outside to explore and exploit this weird new world. We had snowball fights, made snow angels, and slid around on inexpensive plastic sheets called “crazy carpets” which Dad had bought for us in town. Most activities seemed to culminate in ungodly amounts of snow up the sleeves, down the boots, or down the neck, but we thought it was still all great fun.


Mum told us that when she was a little girl, her family lived for a time in Vanderhoof, which was not too far from Prince George, BC. She said that winters up there could get as cold as -30 degrees Farenheit, so I guess she had learned how to have some fun out in the snow.

After disappearing into the trailer for a little while, Mum emerged with a few glass pop bottles which she’d filled with hot water and capped. Placing a bottle on the ground, she packed snow all around it and then moved it along the ground a length at a time, packing more snow around it like a mold. The heat from the water in the bottle melted the surrounding snow just enough to form an icy surface. Before long, we had created our own little “louge” track perfectly shaped for pop bottles! Once we had it figured out, we tried forming all kinds of ramps and tunnels, in attempts to get our pop bottles to zip from the top of our track down to the side of the access road.

Not long after, I decided that I’d make myself a snowman. Rolling and packing the first large snowball gave me a sense of power. I decided that I was going to create a huge snowman bigger than myself! This would be a snowman to remember.


Much to my dismay, I soon discovered that with each new layer of snow, my first snowball was attracting a thick layer of sand! Mixed with the snow, it looked more brown than white – I was creating “Frosty the Dirtman”! The sand would roll together into the snow sort of like the cinnamon in a cinnamon bun. It was also difficult to get my snowballs to be nice and round. They ended up looking more like large flat boulders – like you might see perched impossibly in some Wile E. Coyote cartoon. I was having some major design problems.

Eager to help her big brother in his failing mega-project, Kim packed snow into the snow monster’s nooks and crannies. By this time, I was feeling pretty frustrated at the look of this lop-sided, top-heavy, brown-ish joke of a snowman. It looked more like an uneven, teetering pile of brownish boulders than a happy man made out of snow. But we pressed on. With considerable difficulty, we plopped an almost too-large head onto the other parts and packed more snow around the edges to keep things from falling apart.

I really don’t remember exactly what happened next, but for some reason our snowman tumbled over, his dirty boulders breaking open to reveal blinding white centres. Unfortunately, some of it also landed on little Kim and she started to wail. Even into her teens, Kim claimed that I deliberately pushed Dirtman over on top of her, but I claim that it was simply an industrial accident – the fault of poor design combined with hasty construction.


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The memoir and family history of E. John Love