Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Muncie Boyhood-Sugar and the Blizzard

My bedroom window gave me a nice view of the corner of 21st and Hackley Streets. The slight slope down 21st toward Hackley made for some exciting, but wasted time during snow storms as my nephew David and I would sit and watch cars slide through the stop sign into traffic. I don’t really remember seeing any real accidents, although David claims that we watched at least one rear-end crash. What I do remember is watching the snow blowing and falling…and blowing and falling…and blowing and falling for what seemed like days during the Blizzard of 1978.

People still talk about that particular snow storm. It’s no wonder. It was the biggest weather event of maybe the last fifty years, perhaps of the century. The temperatures dropped to frigid levels. The wind was blowing at 40 mph. And, it snowed, snowed, and snowed…somewhere between 15 and 20 inches, more in some areas. The drifts were crazy deep. Hackley Street had drifts that were taller than my head. The Army Corp of Engineers had to bring in special equipment to clear all the streets.

I can remember shoveling our back walk following the storm. I did it by hand with a scoop shovel. Luckily, it was drifted away from the door enough that we could actually open it, but after you got outside it was about two feet deep across the balance of the yard. I had to scoop it off in layers. I wasn’t particularly fond of that chore anyway, and to have to scoop off two feet of snow all the way to the garage was nuts. Besides that, I had to scoop off a path to my dog’s doghouse….and an area for her to “do her business.”

The most vivid memory I have of that storm revolves around my dog. The night before the storm really began to nail us, the weather guys (Stan Wood on WISH and Bob Gregory on WTHR) were warning of the intensity and danger of this particular storm. But, the problem was that weather guys were often telling us how bad things were going to be and often it turned out to be a dud. My dad wasn’t buying it.

Sugar was my old dog that lived in the backyard. We got her in probably 1963 or so, and she was getting pretty old. Rarely did my dad let her come in the house. The situation had to be extreme. When she did come in, she got to go down to the basement because she wasn’t house broken and would make messes. After listening to the weather reports and watching the news, I was convinced that this was definitely one of those extreme situations.

“Dad, it’s gonna be really nasty out tonight. We need to bring Sugar in.”


“But, Dad…the weather is really bad. It’s supposed to get really cold and snow like crazy.”

“You’re not bringing her in. She’ll be just fine.”

“Come on, Dad. Please. Let’s bring her in.”


I walked away quite angry, and concerned. I was worried about my canine companion, but I couldn’t bring her in without Dad giving the go ahead. There was nothing I could do, so I secluded myself in my room and watched the weather out the window until I was ready to sleep. Eventually, I went to bed and drifted off.

Fast forward to 4am. I’m sound asleep. Something is shaking me.

“Mike. Mike. Wake up.”

“Huh? What?”

“Mike, wake up,” my Dad was saying. “It’s really bad outside. You need to go out and get your dog.”

Can you say, “I told you so…”? I wanted to, but that would have made him mad, and I was more concerned about Sugar.

I jumped up, threw on some clothes, and pulled on my rubber over-boots (without zipping them up), and trudged out the back door. Wow! I had never seen so much snow. It was coming over the top of my boots! I had to lift my feet high with each step as if I were doing a high-step march. When I reached her little house, the snow had drifted in a curl around the front leaving only about a two-inch crack through which I could see the opening. That drift was as high as the roofline of the doghouse.

Brushing the snow away with my bare hands, I found my little white dog with the brown ears shivering inside. I had to dig out the opening enough to get her out, and then I carried her back to the house, trying to step into the same spots I had already trudged through before. She was cold, but she was fine.

I think she was in the basement for a couple of days until it stopped snowing and I could clear away enough of the yard for her to go back outside. I know I had several messes to clean up. That was okay though. Uncharacteristically for the Muncie Community Schools of the era, they actually closed the schools for the whole week, giving me plenty of time to scrub the basement floor and scoop the snow off the back walk.

I suppose my Dad looks like the bad guy in this story. But, before we judge him too harshly, maybe we should consider WHY he was actually up at 4am. I think he got worried about her too, and got up to check things out. When he saw how bad it was, he got me moving. I think he loved my dog as much as I did, but he came from a different era and dogs were still considered to be animals….and animals stayed outside.

I write this as the two dogs I have now are sprawled out and snoozing on my sofa in my living room. I wonder what my dad would think of that?

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