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Neighbors Growing Together | May 27, 2017

Softer or wiser?

By Brooks Taylor | Jan 06, 2017

Are we becoming softer?

I have thought about this occasionally, with most of those thoughts occurring in winter.

No, I’m not one of these fathers who told my kids (when they complained about having to walk to school or wanted a ride) that when I was a kid I walked a mile to school, uphill both ways. I know that last statement dates me, but it was a fairly common parental rebuttal in those days.

Back in another life, I don’t remember many school days canceled due to winter weather. Of course, that was a long time ago and while my memory is still one of my assets, it is not perfect.

Growing up in South Dakota, I was subjected to a lot of winter — winters much worse than we have here. Many times, the snow pile from clearing the driveway nearly reached the eaves of my parents’ ranch-style house.

Naturally, the notice of no school was the best news we received that day. That news was only delivered, I recall, when a blizzard was raging. Two inches of snow was not a reason for calling off school or a sporting event, for that matter. It also didn’t deter travel plans. In South Dakota, it snowed every other day so if you were going to scrap plans due to weather, you spent most of the winter in your house.

Nowadays, school seemingly is canceled during snow events that don’t come close to what I experienced.

Today, our vehicles are much better than we had in my day. Perhaps, there are school buses with actual heat that can be felt further back than the first two rows of seats. Most vehicles are front-wheel drive and many are all-wheel drive. That’s a big improvement from the rear-wheel drive cars we skated around in.

One winter trip during my high school years that never will be forgotten was a basketball trip to this little town out in the middle of nowhere and about 70 miles away from my hometown. It may not have been the end of the earth but with a good pair of binoculars, you could see it from there.

The game was played on a Saturday night in January — a Saturday night without snow flying but plenty of the white stuff on the ground. The trip to the game went as scheduled.

However, the return trip was another story. The hot water in the gymnasium in which we played was non-existent so we already were cold when we boarded the cold 48-passenger bus.

Now, it would be reasonable to think that since we arrived at the game without any problems, the trip home would be no different. Wrong!

For some unknown reason, the bus driver decided to take a different route home. About 45 minutes into the two-hour journey, we were lost. Remember, we are in an extremely isolated area of southern South Dakota. Soon, we were traveling on a gravel road. Fortunately, that gravel road traveled by quite a few farmsteads. We stopped in front of one of the farmsteads (we couldn’t take a bus down the narrow quarter-mile long lane).

The coach made the frigid trek to the farmhouse. Our coach was a Chicago, Ill., native, so while experiencing Chicago winters, he hadn’t experienced many South Dakota winters. A short while later he returned with directions in hand. We made it home that night, about 90 minutes later than planned.

Winters also differ in Iowa. I’ve lived nearly equal time in northwest and southeast Iowa. There is a world of difference in the winter weather. I used to chuckle when southeast Iowa residents complained about winter. Unless they have lived in northwest Iowa previously, they have no idea how different the winters are.

That’s not to say winters in southeast Iowa are a walk in the tropics, but the severity of winter generally differ greatly in the two regions.

Perhaps, we’ve taken a softer attitude toward risky winter outings due to safety concerns. Maybe we’re wiser. I find myself often staying home during inclement weather when 30 years ago, it wouldn’t have put the brakes on me.

Or, maybe the view of winter weather lies in the eyes of the beholder. What seems like a snowstorm to someone in Iowa may be just a snow event in North Dakota.

Maybe it isn’t so much a case of becoming softer, but becoming wiser.

 

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