And with an icy explosion, just for a brief moment, the world was nothing but stars and numbness. Then as quick as it came, the moment was gone. I was brought back to my senses by the frozen trail mapping its way down my back underneath my jacket. A little sliver of smashed snowball had found its way under my clothes. I proceeded to engage a method of removal that was part dance and part convulsion and it elicited howls of laughter from the kids. More snowballs arced their way toward me, trying to hit the same target that had me hopping in the first place.
I found that the best way to rectify my wet, cold back was to engage the offenders in an impromptu snowball war. The day's chores, mucking stalls and throwing bales, would have to wait until my assault was avenged. Being slightly larger than my attackers I devised a less direct engagement of snow artillery. I began launching snow in high, rainbow trajectories, carpet-bombing the barnyard. Children, dogs, horses and goats were running in all directions. From behind tractors and trees their small projectiles still came flying, along with waves of laughter. My wife's back, sore and perpetually aching from multiple attempts at repair, suddenly did not hurt so much as her hands released the first snowball thrown in years. Now I had three "enemies" to engage and all of them found my rainbow attacks hysterical. It was in short order that the tears on my cheeks from laughing so hard began to freeze in their tracks.
Seven days later the package had arrived. My little attackers could not get through the cardboard fast enough. The only way I could get anyone to agree to a snowball truce was to promise the purchase of a new snow riding device and it was trapped in the packaging. Now, I could not in good manly country conscience buy a regular sled, not even a sort of fancy racing sled. No, I needed the hard-bottomed, inner-tube-inflated, heavy-duty, ATV-towable model. The air compressor screamed as the air went rushing into the inner tube and breathed life into the "sled". One kid went running to find the tow strap while the other scrambled for the goggles. My wife tried to quietly hide but the kids would have none of it. The two little imps had already convinced Grandpa that today would be the perfect day to remove some of our tree stands from the big field and that he needed to bring his ATV and a tow rope just in case we got stuck in the snowy field.
Cheering the kids on as Grandpa slung them around the field on their new tube was fun. Watching them bounce over the ridge and get slammed with snowdrift after snowdrift was cute. Seeing them slide sideways behind the ATV, gaining speed as they were sling-shotted through the turns was a hoot. But the greatest moment came watching the kids rolling in the snow on their backs holding their stomachs like some crazy little turtles that had been flipped on their shells and could not stop laughing at their plight. Their laughter was not only infectious but came in unrelenting waves, as one wave finally began to subside another would come crashing down upon them, catching me up in the process. All of this craziness was brought on by the sight, and more hysterically, the sound of their mother flying by on the snow tube tethered to Grandpa's ATV. Her hoots and whoops and ooohs and aahhhs were killing us bystanders. They seemed to be forced out by each and every bump the tube hit. They grew louder as the pair neared our viewing position in the field and then faded as the ATV blazed a path to the far side of the field. Her shrieks of terror when the tube was flung into a turn knocked the kids on to their backs in fits of laughter. They began rolling when the shrieks turned into oowwww, owwww, owwww, owww, oww as the tube bounced toward us. Just when we all thought it was over, Grandpa threw the ATV into another snow-banked fishtail, shooting the tube into a tight 180 degree arc at what seemed to be a speed that would not end well. The shrieks were unnaturally loud when they were right next to you but they were nothing compared to the howls of laughter coming from the kids.
We learned important lessons over those two weekends. Some we already knew, others we had forgotten. Grandpa is evil and it is good. Snow is wonderful and cold. Snow tubes are fun to ride. There is only one thing more fun than watching your kids have fun on a ride, and that is watching them laugh, especially at their mother's terror. The thought still makes my stomach hurt.