As a kid, there was little comfort in hearing the snow scrape the underbelly of the car, causing us to swerve off course, clipping the edge of the ditch. When visibility got really bad, Dad would hop out and lead the way by foot while Mom took the wheel. Nothing to hold back the whirlwinds of snow but a couple of crooked corn stalks left behind from the combines. No margin of error on the single path gravel road to the farm. Anything to the right or the left of the mounded centerline veered straight into the ditch.
One year, Old Man Winter had our number, leaving us stranded, cockeyed in the ditch, with exhaust seeping through the floor. No way to contact help, so we bundled up under a blanket in the backseat while listening to Mom and Dad come up with a plan.
Not long after Jack Frost crept into our boots, a faint light peered through the storm, accompanied by a rumbling noise. An unexpected shape slowly came into focus- a Batman like figure hauling a 100-pound chain slung over his shoulder. Behind him shone the lights of a beat-up pickup truck with a cattle guard welded to the grill in the shape of a permanent frown, threatening to mess anything up that dare cross its path. The massive machine rocked back and forth to the pulse of an irregular idle, mean enough to yank 30 oxen out of a swamp without even touchin’ the gas. My mother gasped with relief at the sight of her brother. Mike was normally our jovial, fun loving, mustache-smiling uncle with a cackling laugh that could be heard two counties away, but today, he was Winter Batman.
After clanging around under the car with the chain, he gave a quick tug with all his weight that jerked our heads back. The glint in my eye locked on Dad and Winter Batman taking on the storm together, pages unfolding of a larger-than-life comic book. The two of them trudging through snow like a couple of hulking water buffalo with icicles dangling from their beards. A degree of manliness that sat me back down in my twelve-year-old booster seat.
From that day forward, I couldn’t count the days fast enough until my mamby-pamby, peach fuzz face finally grew something worth shaving. Memories of youth- details probably a little skewed, but integrity of the message still loud and clear. I feel fortunate to have experienced life that way, as opposed to the modern day equivalent of a stranger flopping out of his company tow truck to pull the green lever while scarfing down the last bite of doughnut. A few minutes later, the powdered sugar faced man slips a bill through the window. Dad grumbling under his breath for having to cut a $200 check so that someone could pull a stupid lever. All the while, kids glued to their devices in the backseat with headphones blaring. I will still remember when Winter Batman had to go head-to-head with Old Man Winter. Thanks for setting the bar Uncle Mike!