Finally, an old-school Pennsylvania winter

As I type this blog, the thermometer reads 22 degrees and powdery snow is falling upon the backyard view my home office overlooks. It’s one of my favorite times to sit at the oak desk I built many years ago, glance out the window for inspiration, and let the words pour freely from my mind to the keyboard.

Naturally, my thoughts drift to all those fond winters of my youth, when heading outside was never a bother, and the only worry was if my older brother and I could shovel the snow off our farm pond in time to play a few rounds of ice hockey before nightfall, or whose turn it was to be the dog on our next push through the bramble patch in quest of cottontail rabbits.

In recent years, it seems we’ve experienced much milder winters than normal, and though many have complained of the bitter cold that has plagued our state for several weeks recently, I’d argue that it’s a somewhat refreshing return to the way things used to be. Yes, an old-school winter has finally graced Pennsylvania.

Now, before some of my more “seasoned” readers begin to scoff at this 30-something, young whippersnapper of an outdoors writer talking about the golden days of yesteryear, I want to remind everyone that my prime outdoor playing age of 9-to-12 spanned 1993’s “Storm of the Century” as well as the “Blizzard of ’96.”

I know it may not rival the whooping Mother Nature gave the state in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, but we had some real winters when I was a kid, too. In fact, I vividly recall being out of school for days on end. Now, that was living.

So I must admit this winter’s long cold snap, albeit uncomfortable and inconvenient to some extent, has been a welcomed change of pace in terms of outdoors enjoyment. Sure, my truck gets crappier mileage, I’m burning through oil and wood pellets to keep my house heated, and my stockpile of firewood is slowly depleting.

But on the upside, the frigid air pushing in from the northwest helped my friends and I have one of the most epic late-season field hunts for waterfowl we’ve ever experienced. In one evening, the six of us piled up 13 Canada geese and 18 mallards, one of which was amazingly banded in Saskatchewan in 2006.

It seemed the birds were pushed way off their normal migratory flyways, but we were glad for their uncommon arrival. We likely would’ve shot our limit had the end of legal shooting light not put an abrupt halt to our hunt right in the middle of the action. As we reluctantly picked up decoys, wave after wave continued to circle overhead after sunset. Though we could only watch them, it sure was a heck of a sight to see.

I confess I haven’t done as much flintlock or late-season archery hunting as I usually do, but I’m not in any dire need for meat. With a Florida hog, Pennsylvania buck and Maryland doe already in my freezer, I’m just as happy to keep up with chores around the house when the roads are treacherous and wind-chills threaten frostbite.

But I was able to clear the little pond below my barn for a few hours of impromptu skating last night before an upcoming weekend warm-up puts an end to my flashback childhood escapades.

Gliding around on that ice took me back to those carefree days of my youth, when being a farm boy meant being outside as often as possible, regardless of the weather.

Come to think of it, I might be able to get in a few more rounds before nightfall if I hurry, and the snow is just beginning to taper off. Yes, an old-school Pennsylvania winter is finally gracing us with its presence, and I aim to enjoy it while it lasts.

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