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Every child’s hope, winter dream, and desire are wrapped up in a few hours of happiness and bitter cold—a snow day. When I was six or seven years old, my snow days consisted of snow ball fights, snowmen, and sledding, just like a typical kid. However, the winter moments I remember most were tractor rides with my great uncle Joe when he fed the cows. The hour it took to do his daily chores gave me purpose and made me feel grown up.
Without fail, the night before an anticipated snow day Joe invited me to join him the next morning. Of course, I never turned down the opportunity to watch the big tires of the John Deere plow through the snow and to sit on his knee to steer the machine.
As the sun rose over our farm, the ground sparkled declaring my morning mission. Mom shook me from a deep slumber, but my dreamy state only lasted for a second. I rushed to get ready for the day, slipping on a plaid shirt, Winnie the Pooh cap, and yellow rubber boots. My glass of milk and toast with blackberry jelly sat at the table waiting for me, since Mom always made sure I ate breakfast before leaving. I climbed onto my booster seat (a phone book) and gobbled down the meal. The faint hum of the tractor approached.
Mom gave me a Zip Lock full of homemade cookies before departure. She escorted me to the front porch and waved to Joe. I gave her a quick good-bye hug and trudged through the snow to the tractor, my limousine. Joe opened the door, and his huge German shepherd, Katie, bombarded me with her floppy tail and wet tongue. Katie intimidated me with her big teeth and pointy ears. Now I know she would not hurt anyone, but I barely stood over three feet, and an animal that big could scare even a giant. Of course, a tough farm girl never showed her fear, so I let the dog sniff my hand and lightly patted her on the head. All three of us piled in the tractor, ready for takeoff.
The engine roared, and Joe’s foot slowly released the clutch. The tractor lurched and lurched, then vroom! The huge wheels plowed through the snow, leaving a trail behind us like a giant zipper on a white coat.
Joe has always engaged me in the usual things adults ask children, the boring questions, such as: “How’s school?”, “Do you like your teacher?”, or “What is your favorite subject?”… However, he never lingered on those topics, because he knew what truly made school interesting.
“So, how are Tate and Dwight?” he finally inquired. Tate and Dwight were the troublemakers in kindergarten, always getting in fights, sitting in the corner, or telling wild tales about driving trucks and flipping four wheelers.
“Miss Kriessler had to send them to the office for fighting during free time. Dwight stole Tate’s LEGO wheels, and Tate shoved him! Then, they started pushing each other, until Miss Kriessler yelled at them and told them to sit in the corner. She called Mr. Runge, and he took them to his room to talk.”
Joe laughed. We continued to amuse one another with small talk and nibbling on Mom’s cookies, until a herd of cattle danced behind the tractor demanding breakfast. The tractor halted and let out a puff of gray smoke. This was my cue to open the door and climb out. Joe followed me, and we trudged to the bale of hay, pinched by the arms on the back of the tractor. He cut the twine with a pocketknife, and I helped pull it off of the frozen bale. The dirt and ice on the twine stuck to my gloves, the cold making my fingers tremble. I followed close behind him back to the cab. The rule was to stay close to him, because the cattle reveled around us, creating quite a scene. They kicked snow and swung their heads, the calves gleefully darting past their mothers.
Joe climbed in the driver’s seat and pushed the controls to set the bale on the ground. The tractor roared, and away we went, the hay unraveling a bovine buffet. The cattle romped and pranced through their feast like a red carpet premiere. A smile grew across my face, because I felt like Santa Claus spreading joy and fodder throughout the pasture. The arms dropped the remaining portion of the bale too small to unravel any more.
Joe asked me if I wanted to drive. Without hesitation, I climbed on his knee to steer. Sitting on his lap was my only option because I was too short to reach the pedals. Unconsciously, my tongue slipped out of the corner of my mouth, a hint of deep concentration. Without my permission, he changed to a faster gear, scaring me because I felt as if I were flying through the snow. The tractor was probably nothing but a green flash to the naked eye, so I told him to slow it down. The old man giggled like a child.
The top of my house came into view as we approached the end of our adventure. The bag of cookie crumbs and Katie’s snoring head pressed against the window were signs that our morning was ending. Joe told me to park the tractor where he picked me up for the expedition. His feet hit the clutch and breaks, ending our ride.
“Call me if school is canceled tomorrow.” He was as hopeful as I was.
“Sure will,” I replied.
Katie let out a small whimper as I climbed out of the tractor. I prayed for another snow day, another day on the farm. The cold bit my face when I tramped back to the house. After closing the door to my warm, toasty home, I looked out the window and saw the tractor reduced to nothing but a green speck in the snow. Mom’s voice carried across the house, telling me to throw my dirty gloves in the washer. The farm stains would come out of my clothes, but never out of me.