Clearing driveway

Grandpa Neil puts his 6430 to good use clearing the family’s otherwise impassable driveway.

The crisp chill in the air, the crunch of fresh-fallen snow under foot, the glistening of crystallized powder under the pale moonlight — all the things that make winter wonderful, and I dislike them all. Every single one of them. Let’s admit it, I am the Grinch of winter if ever there were one.

Where others see beauty, I see icy roads and frozen body parts. While the entire population is outside joyfully frolicking in fresh-fallen snow with hot cocoa in-hand, I’m inside hurling insults at the Weather Channel and scowling at the 50 pounds of winter my kids just tracked all over my freshly cleaned floors.

Even the simple task of heading out the door makes my stomach turn. The endless marathon of piling layer after layer of outerwear onto each of my three children is enough to make me bust a sweat just thinking about it. Bah-humbug to it all.

For decades, I’ve been able to coax myself through these winter woes with the simple reassurance that in the big city, the snow gods were forever in my favor. No form of winter could ever exist for too long in Cedar Rapids. With a fully stocked fleet of snowplows at the ready and the most modern anti-snow chemical technologies in-hand, streets were cleared and completely bone dry by the time my cereal would hit the bowl every morning. School snow days were a rarity too, and the truly frigid days never felt all that cold because the dense cityscape doubled as an excellent radiant heater. Yes sir, I was living the winter-hater’s dream.

That is, however, until this year.

Out in the rural landscape of south central Iowa, all the luxuries of city-based weather management are almost entirely absent. Around these parts, winter can deliver a mean right hook, and the only means of defending ourselves lies in the collective effort of a tiny but mighty two-person road crew.

Snow removal that used to take just five to six hours to complete in the city, now takes up to four or five days in our little town. What does this mean for an unseasoned winter driver like myself? Well, if you’re ever in the area and hear the distant howl of spinning tires, don’t be alarmed, it’s just me. My winter driving skills have not yet arrived, and it’s translated into free entertainment for anyone willing to watch.

But then we have tractors. This season I’ve learned that these simple implements are surprisingly useful in countering anything and everything Mother Nature throws at you. Take our recent 15-inch snowfall, for example. In the city, such an epic event would be met with a chorus of angry homeowners manning their growly, mid-sized snow blowers into the wee hours of the night.

In our rural homestead, however, a tractor fitted with a dump bucket gets the job done in about the time it takes to pour yourself a glass of water. Who knew?! This year I’m going to request my husband push the old snow blower out the door and instead keep his family’s 6430 tucked warmly away in our garage as the go-to snow eater.

Something else I’m also trying to wrap my mind around this year is the reality of radically increased (dare I say it) school snow days. Last year, we only encountered one. This year, we’ve already lived through three, and that was before I even turned the calendar to December. It’s incredible how the fate of my normally quiet day now lies squarely on a little yellow bus’s ability to successfully travel down a weather-torn country road.

Looks like the kids and I are going to have many opportunities for stay-at-home bonding this winter. Thankfully, my youngest child still prefers the luxury of indoor adventure, which gives me a reason to stay inside while the other two roll around in everything God made cold. So glad I managed to raise at least one kid with my stubborn preferences.

Charlie Albertson in snow

The youngest Albertson who appreciates warmer weather, immediately regrets his decision to go outside.

Winter for this warlock may have only just begun, but I do admittedly allow myself to deviate from the role on occasion to enjoy the fun little quirks a rural Iowa winter does have to offer. While you won’t catch me building snow forts or driving properly on half-plowed roads any time soon, I can say the potential for a partial reform is still definitely in the air.

Until then, enjoy this season and all the beauty that comes with it and remember that even the most winter-defiant Grinches do eventually come around.

Happy Holidays and warmest (indoor) wishes to all!


Dixie Albertson moved from Cedar Rapids to a small town in southern Iowa, where her husband, Travis, joined the family farm. They have three children.