A snow day in the deep south brings us to a boot-stomping stop. As little as an inch offers a reprieve from the routine, excuses us from making up excuses. At the same time, however, wintry weather alters us from our carefree, casual Southern selves, trapping us in a rhythm that doesn't match our step.
During the few brief hours of accumulation, we course through five predictable stages:
Stage 1 -- Fire and Brimstone: Meteorologists preach from their pulpits about the possible certainty of serious inclement weather, and we can't help but stay tuned to tales of icy bridges and treacherous highways. Before three flakes fall, we panic and cancel school. Children run through neighborhoods rejoicing in salvation.
In the same way that the Great Depression caused people to spend the rest of their lives hording reams of Styrofoam meat trays, the storm of February '73, which buried us in over a foot of flakes, scarred our generation. For fear that what the weatherman promises might actually happen, and needing something constructive to do in the meantime, we rush to the grocery store to buy survival staples -- bread, water, toilet paper, and beer.
Most years, Stage 1 is as far as we get.
Stage 2 -- Snake Handling: This is when we poke the coiled serpent with a stick to see if it's dead or just resting.
We return home with our purchases and wait. Finally, the sky shakes her grey curls, which sprinkle cold dandruff, letting it drift onto our outstretched mittened hands and tasting tongues. For all our reminiscing about similar occasions, we have little experience with the stuff snowmen are made of, and even less equipment for interacting with it.
So, after making all our preparations for getting socked in, we get in our cars and go out. We drive around awestruck until we drive slap off the road into a ditch.
Fortunately, our closest redneck cousin with a four-wheel drive, who sat on ready since the snow started, pulls us out so we won't suffer the humiliation of evening newscasters highlighting us as a casualty of this atmospheric phenomenon.
Stage 3 -- Rednecks Going Green: Snake-bitten by the elements, we return home to our toilet paper and beer. That's when we have a revelation about how to fit ourselves into this whitened world: Recycling.
Pulling knee-boards from beneath boat covers, grabbing inflatable rafts from pool houses, filching cookie sheets from kitchens, and dismantling wheelbarrows from their wheels, we head for the hills. No hills? No never-mind. A ski rope and a four wheeler will satisfactorily send us slip-sliding away, with hoop-hollers of happiness, into yet another ditch.
Life is about as good as it gets in Stage 3.
Stage 4 -- Mama Ain't Laughin': Stage 4 marks the beginning of the end. It is characterized by power outages, water stoppages, trips to the ER, and all out breakdown of decorum. Going without heat and lights and water brings hardship to the homestead.
But the unavoidable lack of good judgment, due to the infrequency of frozen precipitation in these parts, brings all fun to an abrupt finish: Someone contracts an acute case of cabin fever and hits Mama in the face with a snowball. It ain't funny.
Stage 5 -- Tomorrow is Another Day: The snow melts into oblivion for another eight years or more. And we all watch the evidence of winter recede, and marvel at how quickly it came and how quickly it went and wonder if what happened in between was real or just a dream.
Then we settle back into our carefree, casual Southern selves, refreshed from our reprieve.
(Lucy Adams, a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and author, lives in Thomson. Contact Lucy at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her Web site, www.IfMama.com.)