School cancellations for snow days seldom happened in northeast South Dakota in the 1960s. It wasn’t a full day, but actually more like an hour early dismissal. My three older brothers and I hiked the one-mile trek home in hip-deep snow. Us Roso boys were all about danger and peril so at a time when we should have hurried home to keep our mother from worry, we meandered from snow mountain to snow mountain climbing and pushing and conquering. As a kindergartner, I probably did more falling and whining than conquering. I vaguely remember my socks sliding down a lot and the insides of my boots rubbing against my cold, wet ankles.
Two blocks from home was time for “King of the Mountain.” It was the first time I’d ever heard of the game. My family was poor so the idea of being King of anything sounded inspiring. What I didn’t realize was that being king of the mountain required strength and weight — neither of which I had. (I never really bulked up. . . . I’m pretty sure I was still under thirty pounds for my high school senior pictures.)
My brothers climbed up the mountain first and before I could even get a grip, two of them were knocked down on top of me, wedging me deep into the snow. After being royally mocked by the King, the next try I ran as fast as I could to force someone down (Maybe speed would work?) but I flew over the top and hit the ground hard on the other side of the mountain. In the midst of this fun we would punch and kick each other as hard as we could, sliding down and saying encouraging things like “stupid jerk,” “stinkin’ idiot” and “you slob” just to help build each other’s self confidence. We finally stopped (which is obvious because I’m now writing this as an adult) and walked home with one of us crying (probably me) and one of us tattling to mom about what happened (probably me, also).
What had started as fun ended with all of us being mad at each other and Mom yelling at us for being home late. We probably yelled at each other throughout dinner, complained about the food and jabbed each other with our forks. Then, when Dad had enough, he probably “settled it” once and for all. I probably went to bed mad or hurt and cried myself to sleep because I acted like a baby (a habit that started as far back as my infancy).
But the next morning . . . we all loved each other again. My tears from yesterday were now only stains on the pillow case. Childhood was like that — every day was a new day. No matter how bad the fight was, each morning was a fresh start. Things were simple back then.
Calvin G. Roso © December 2013