"Cold Winter Brings Back Memories"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Saturday, February 28, 2015

Winter is certainly delivering all that it promised after it began back in November and then was put on hold for a time.

I was lucky enough to experience that early snowfall and freezing temperatures just before Thanksgiving. So I have a slight idea of what you are all experiencing. It sure hastened my departure for the southland.

I admit pictures of the lighthouses, breakwalls and harbors covered in ice are attractive, but seeing them on my computer screen is enough to keep me entertained.

Snow removal, we all admit, is easier now than in years past. I remember using a big coal shovel. Lifting and piling with that old, flat bottomed tool was enough to almost break your back. Even with modern snow moving equipment, the job in extreme cold conditions that exist this year is surely very hard work.

Young people in the past used to be able to make a few bucks when the snow flew. Older folks appreciated their help and were happy to compensate them. Some enterprising youngsters put plows on their trucks and ventured out intending to make extra cash by plowing. Gas stations, grocery stores, medical buildings and private driveways all needed to be cleared for people to access. The problem with these enterprises, as I recall when I tried it, was the cost of fuel and maintenance of equipment often exceeded the income.

Few who take up snow removal actually profit, but many keep trying. Brings to mind that old saying, “If it looks too good to be true, it often is.”

The wear and tear on your body, let alone the equipment, are higher prices you may not want to pay. Torn muscles or broken bones will haunt you in your later years. If you still really want to tax your body, better build it up first to take the stress. I’m not trying to lecture, just giving some advice speaking from my own experience.

As I see it, a healthy body is better than cash in the bank, and all the elder folks should resist attempts at snow removal and leave it to the younger generation. They can tap their memories remembering winter’s past such as when the local Yacht Club sponsored snowmobile drag racing on Hellems Road.

A quarter mile area was plowed along with a warm-up area. Races were set in classes and trophies awarded to winners. The activities drew families from all around the Thumb, along with many from downstate who loaded up their machines and headed north to enjoy the winter challenge.

Other fond winter activities included taking to the trails that ran through area woods from Port Austin to Caseville. Hitting the trails with the whole family for a day at the Caseville snowmobile race course was a regular trip for many Port Austin families. Groups numbering up to as many as 20 traveled together and it was common to stop in a clearing and set up a camp. The kids would round up some firewood and soon a fire would be going to cook hot dogs and later roast marshmallows. A hot meal out in the cold was always welcome. Hot chocolate and a few hot toddies were sure to warm everyone up.

Some trail rides would take the group east through woods that lead to Huron City or as far as Port Hope. These trips were often shorter so more kids would be along riding double or pulled in sleds. Each family member was well dressed for the elements: snowsuit, boots, helmet and gloves. Frostbite was an occasional problem but hand warmers were a quick treatment. At -27 degrees twice in one week, just about everyone in the Thumb must be carrying them this winter.

It’s too bad snowmobiling has become an activity of the past because I think families could really enjoy it just like we did. I suppose, like many other fun things families used to do, the cost probably exceeds most family budgets.



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