Stories told

A good icing

Indianapolis winters have been mild as long as I’ve lived here. I can count only a handful of bad snows, which always bring grief as the city can’t plow the streets fast enough. More than once this has made my driving home across town from work a four-hour endurance test. We just went through a pretty big snowstorm — I measured a foot of snow in my driveway, the most I’ve seen in years. A few days every winter it gets cold enough that I need my wool-lined Army-surplus trench coat that has repelled every wind for the 20 years I’ve owned it. I needed that old coat during this recent snow. Otherwise, during Indy winters the ground is clear and I wear a medium jacket.

Growing up in South Bend, snow was on the ground from November through April. It seemed like there was always enough snow for forts or snowball fights. But I had no love for snow since, as soon as I was old enough to hoist it, I was issued a shovel and told to hit the driveway. There were times we shoveled 2 or 3 times a day for five days at a stretch. The cold was always a real worry, too. Mom wasn’t being overprotective when she ordered hats, gloves, hoods, and scarves. I remember walking to and from school in winds so strong and cold that I would sometimes walk for blocks sideways, legs braced, so my back could take the brunt.

Terre Haute seemed like a distant foreign land when I experienced its comparatively temperate winters. Snows always melted within a few days, and I could run around with an unzipped coat and no hat. Unlike either Indianapolis or South Bend, however, Terre Haute got several ice storms while I lived there. They always made the roads treacherous and some of them disrupted life by snapping power lines. But if you had power and didn’t have to go anywhere, you could go outside and take in the beauty the storms left behind. Everything was coated in a layer of ice, which made ordinary things such as trees and street signs and fences seem fresh and clean — and stiff. I remember driving down I-70 on my way back to college a couple days after an ice storm. The trees lining the road seemed like ghosts as their white-tipped branches hung low and still.

After an ice storm in about 1990, I chipped a half-inch of ice off my car with considerable effort and drove the slippery roads to work with considerable care. I wished I had time to snap photos of some of the storm’s work, which was especially lovely. When I got there, I found the building dark and cold, and my co-workers sitting around in the breakroom drinking gas-station coffee. The power company didn’t know when power would be restored. I knew that even after power returned it would take hours for the computer servers I depended on to boot. I decided I didn’t want to sit around in the cold and dark breakroom waiting, so I drove back home, found my camera, and walked a block to Collett Park to take these photos. My photography skills were, charitably, weak, but I think these photos turned out all right.

I came upon this young oak near the horseshoe club’s pit. The tree must not have been too strong, given that it was propped up like that. But its leaves were awfully tenacious, still clinging to the tree well into winter. Even the ice storm’s strong winds couldn’t break these leaves free. Instead, the ice conformed itself to the leaves.

collett-park-young-oak.jpg

The mature trees, having long ago lost their leaves, glowed in a quarter-inch coating of ice.

collett-park-tree.jpg

The ice weighed the branches down, making them hang low.

Branches heavy with ice

The nets on the tennis court glistened, frozen stiff.

collett-park-tennis-net.jpg

I was tempted to try this slide, but I wasn’t so adventurous in my youth.

A very slippery slide

This fence looked like a Photoshop “unsharp mask” effect had been applied to it in real life — except that nobody had really heard of Photoshop yet.

Chain link fence at Collett Park

The storm also left ice appearing to drip off the clothesline and power lines in my back yard.

Ice along a clothes line

I took these photos with a Kodak VR K40 that was my main camera then. It was a so-so point-and-shoot.

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