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TITLE: The Blizzard
By Jim Oates

A critique would be welcomed on this boyhood memory of foolish behaviour that could have cost me my life.
The hope and dream of every young fellow back in the forties was to get his driverís license and then his hunting permit. At the age of seventeen, and with great pride, I had acquired both, and had saved up enough money to buy a used sixteen gauge single-shot, shotgun.

It was one of those cold frosty mornings with the sun sparkling on the crisp, newly fallen snow. The snow crunched as I headed across the field. I felt a bite on my cheeks as Jack Frost dabbed them with his brush, leaving a red glow that caused a burning sensation on the exposed skin. There was a sharp searing sensation inside my nose as I inhaled the frigid air. I soon got used to it as I walked into the sun with a light breeze at my back. It was mid January in 1948, and as any adolescent boy with a newly acquired shotgun, I was very glad to be out trudging along through snow midway to my knees in places.

I was on a hunt for any cottontail that may still be hunkered down under a snow covered brush pile. I usually went hunting with my friend Norm; one of us would kick or jump on each brush pile as we came upon them, hoping a cottontail or two would run out. However, this morning Norm had to help his father with something and I was alone. I made my way across Smithís pasture field, through Old Nickís bush and across the tracks to a neighbouring bush lot. That is where I was able to drop my first rabbit of the day. I then made my way across the field behind the bush where I saw a jackrabbit lazily loping along, I decided against firing as he was a little out of range and it would have been a wasted shot.

I followed his tracks in the snow for a ways, hoping he would circle around, and just maybe, would come within range. This tactic had worked other times but not this day. I continued across the road, zigzagged my way through the stubble and weeds, and was able to bag another cottontail. By this time, I had made my way all the way to the Elmstead road, some two and a half miles from home.

It was beginning to cloud over and the temperature was beginning to drop. I decided to head for home, besides; the two rabbits in my game pouch were beginning to get heavy. There was still the chance that I might be able to bag another rabbit on the way back, for Momís stew pot.

All the while I was walking that morning, the wind had been at my back and the sun was shinning; it had been a crisp, but comfortable walk and I didnít really notice the cold. Now, as it clouded over, I was heading in the opposite direction and into the wind, I began to feel the cold begin to penetrate my heavy hunting jacket. It began with a few flurries, and then heavier snow driven by the wind felt like tiny needles against my already cold face. I walked with my head tilted at an angle to protect my face and eyes from the elements. As my eyes were now narrow slits above my burning cheeks, it was difficult to see.

Two miles seemed to go on forever as I plodded on into driving snow. I knew I was heading in the right direction, as I was able to follow the railway tracks. I had no thought of danger, as walking along the railroad was a common thing in those days. The tracks became a handy shortcut to visit our friends over on the next concession. I trudged along using the rails as my guide.

I lost all sense of time and distance, the howling wind was blowing the snow in a horizontal direction now. I looked up from time to time but I could see no further than an arms length ahead of me. The howling of the wind blocked any sound that normally would have been heard.

I could not make out any landmarks, but I had to be getting close to my road. For some reason unknown to me, it had to have been providence; I got off the track and began walking over by the fence that ran all the way along. I had not been there but a few minutes, when I felt a trembling beneath my feet as a freight train rumbled by. In those days, I had good hearing, but that monster steamer snuck up on me. What started as a light tremor gained momentum and now I felt the ground shake as it went by. I only heard it after it was passing and blew its whistle. The wind blew the sound back to me. That whistle-blast certainly added to the chill that was already creeping into my bones.

Even though I didn't know the Lord in my youth, looking back I can see the His hand of protection on my life. It is only by the grace of God that I am able to tell this story today.
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