by Dale Grubaugh
This winter? It has been cold! January? The temperatures were below zero at night and barely out of the single digits in the day.
Five inches of powdery snow on the ground, more in the forecast. The wind howling.
It was a good time to stay indoors watch winter from a safe, warm distance.
Ozark winters vary as much as the terrain.
Now, most winters here are mild. But we still have winter. It gets cold. It snows. There is ice and wind. For the most part though, winter doesn’t come and stay for weeks.
It may be as cold as the Arctic one week and as balmy as Louisana the next. The last three or four years have brought some mighty severe ice storms (and the aftermath stayed long after the ice).
The deepest single snowfall I’ve seen in these Ozark hills was over two feet and that was in 1995. But even that two feet of snow was gone in just a few days, which is pretty much the norm.
The snow and ice comes down — but just doesn’t stay long.
Except for one year: 1978.
It began to snow early that year. I recollect the first measureable snow fell just before Thanksgiving. It didn’t stay on the ground but a couple of days. But by mid-December?
The snow started falling and so did the temperatures. For nigh on six weeks, it snowed most every day or so it seemed.
I got snowed out of my little trailer off Compton Ridge and stayed with relatives over near Mutton Hollow. My aunt and uncle were very gracious and we made the most of it for about three weeks.
Ever’ evening we would tune into the weather, hoping for a reprieve. But no, sir! There wasn’t a reprieve in sight!
Those snow storms just kept a’comin’. One right after the other. The snow piled up and the temperatures stayed down in the teens.
It stayed so cold for so long that a rare thing happened here in the Ozarks — parts of Table Rock froze over. The main body of the lake has never frozen but that year most of the tributary arms did.
Big Indian, Little Indian (both over toward the Lampe / Baxter area, Kings River down to the south, and even the James River arm over at Cape Fair froze to where a man could walk clean across them.
Because of the heavy snows, roofs started to fall in. Boat docks (those that weren’t held up by ice) were sinkin’. There were a lot of bad things happenin’ but in true Ozark fashion, some good things were goin’ on as well.
My aunt and uncle weren’t the only ones showing Ozark hospitality. Folks all over these hills started checkin’ on each other.
Those who had the vehicles for it would haul groceries to those who couldn’t dig out. If homes couldn’t be gotten to by truck, food was packed in a’foot. Firewood was cut, the sick were taken to the doctor. And those who didn’t have adequate heat? They were taken into homes or public shelters. Folks were true neighbors to one another.
Now, I’m not saying that Ozarkians aren’t neighborly as rule, because we are. But when times get tough, we come out to help each other in a big way.
Yessir, the Winter of ’78 was the worst and the best I have ever seen. The worst as far as the length as severity of the weather. But the best in terms of neighborliness.
The Ozarks are a grand place to live.
’Till next month.
Elias Tucker (Dale Grubaugh)
Originally published February 21, 2010