Wintertime Notes

From notes I had scribbled in a visit with Sid and Irene, I have a few winter activities to share with you, perhaps a hodge-podge but worth repeating.

His brother Bennie it was, said Sid, who first took him deer hunting in the 1930s -with either a .25-.20 or a .32 Special, as I recall. Although Bennie also hunted “up north,” the episode on Sid’s mind when we spoke was a hunting trip to the Rock Dam area near Fairchild. The challenge was there was only one gun between the two of them. So what did they do? They had a target practice competition to determine who got to use the gun first! (I love to learn of creative solutions to potential conflict!)

One time, Sid recalled, when he used the .32 Speical , he wondered if missed his shot. Not so! They picked up the deer’s trail and found it 250 feet away. That was the exciting part compared to what followed! They had to drag the deer 2 1/2 miles out of the woods. At the end of that trip, it probably felt larger than the deer Sid had shot. In these same woods they also had to use a compass or that 2 1/2 miles would have become even longer.

These brothers were farming at the time, course, so what did that mean? Getting up at 3:00 a.m. to milk 16 cows before they could hit the hunting trail. But for hunting, getting up early is never hard! Once they were out in the woods, a challenge often was to keep warm. In years when the ground was blanketed in deep snow, Sid informed me, they would light an old tree stump on fire and stand near enough to enjoy its warmth. Clever fellows! And they were smart enough not to light the same stumps on fire when no snow covered the ground. That would have been asking for fire trouble.

What about the family Christmas, I wondered as I thought about life in those hard 1930s. What about presents, for example? Sid said gloves and stockings were common gifts. The Christmas tree was trimmed with candles – but they weren’t actually lit very often. Just as it was out in the woods, fire was nothing to fool with. And Sid said he did hang up a stocking for Santa’s visit.

For those wintry days the big brick house was equipped with a wood furnace to keep the family warm. Getting that heat spread evenly throughout the house, however, must have been nearly impossible. The furnace in the basement did not have a fan to move the air, but the heat would rise through large grated holes on the floor. And as the heat rose, the house was warmed. (I wonder how often wet clothing got placed over those grates for drying…. I can smell wet wool stockings even now as I think about this…. Uffda!)

Winter time. of course, also meant ski jumping, and Emil made jumping skis, seven feet in length,  for his sons. Sid recalls skis propped up in a corner of the dining room awaiting a proper shellacking and the next competition.

One winter day in 1935 Sid (about 12 years of age) and Odell (three years older) walked to Whitehall for a ski jump tournament – that must have been six or seven miles. The long walk was worth every step because the day was a Borreson bonanza: Odell won the longest standing jump and Sid the most graceful jump. They didn’t even know they won until Bennie arrived home that evening. After he finished ski jumping at Westby the same afternoon, he stopped for gas in Whitehall where he was told that “the Borreson boys (Odell and Sid) really cleaned up today!”

Besides the Whitehall jump, Sid recalls other jumps and the jumping distances: Cameron, for example, 60 feet, and on neighborhood farms, the Hallingstad jump, 60 feet, and the Stendahl jump, 100 feet. When I asked Sid what ended ski jumping as such a popular local sport. Without missing a beat, he replied that it was the war.

So there we have it: a few winter-time activities in the thirties. Families like ours didn’t have much, but it was the same for everyone so no one really felt deprived. As a perspective on life, I find it interesting that good memories don’t require expensive gifts. So… thanks, Sid and Irene, for sharing your memories, a great gift to our family.  And to everyone, Merry Christmas!

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