The recent snows in Corpus Christi found children and adults alike busy building snow people all over the city. This story by Janice Sautter tells of a very unusual snow woman built in 1940s Oklahoma. It is sure to make you smile.
It was wintertime in Oklahoma. I didn’t really like winter. If it snowed, it was not quite as bad. At least I could play in the snow. But, Oklahoma has a lot of sleet. It gets so cold in the winter. The wind blows real hard, and I just freeze to death.
Our house was old, and the wind blew in around the windows. Mother hung blankets on the north windows to keep some of the wind out. We had butane gas and just a small gas-burning stove in the living room. Mother kept the oven on and opened the door to keep it a little bit warmer. But, when we went to bed, all the heat was turned off. She said it was too dangerous to leave it on. Then it got bitterly cold!
We had big quilts on the beds to keep us warm. Granny and my mother made them. Some of them were very warm because they were stuffed with feathers. I was thankful we had the quilts, or I would have frozen to death for sure. We had just four rooms in our house: the living room, the bedroom, which had one full-size bed for Margie and me, and a twin bed for my brother, a bedroom for my parents, and the kitchen. We had a big screened-in back porch, too.
I remember when I was little, I would wake up at night and be scared. I could see all kinds of things in the dark that scared me. In the winter when the wind was blowing real hard, I heard noises no one could believe. I would call out to my mother and ask her if I could sleep with her and Daddy.
“Mothe,r can I come sleep with you?”
“No, Ruthie. Go back to sleep.”
“But I can’t. I’m scared.”
“Nothing to be scared of.”
“Yes, there is, too,” I would say.
Daddy said, “Come on, Ruthie.”
I knew Daddy would give in if he thought I was scared. Mother would get mad at him for giving in to me. I would jump out of bed real fast and run to their bed. It was cold, and I was scared that something would grab me in the dark. Daddy would pick me up and put me in between him and Mother. It felt so good to be in their bed. I was warm and safe.
“You be still now,” my Mother said.
“And don’t be kicking me either.”
“I won’t. I promise.”
“If you do, I will make you go back to your bed.”
“I will be real still.”
“My baby Ruthie,” Daddy would say.
I loved when he called me his baby Ruthie. I wouldn’t let anyone else call me baby. But it was all right for Daddy to call me that. He was always on my side no matter what I did. He saved me quite a few times when Mother was going to spank me. He would stand right up to her and tell her “No, you are not going to spank her.”
“What she did is not bad enough to get a spanking,” Daddy said.
“That’s what you always say,” Mother replied.
“Well, I guess it must be true then.”
“No, it’s not true. You just protect her all the time.”
“That’s right. That’s my job to protect her.”
It was the same words every time . I knew them by heart. If she had really wanted to spank me though, she would have done it, no matter what Daddy said. My mother was the boss in our house, especially when it was about us kids. She thought she always knew best about us.
It was a long way to walk to school in the winter. Margie and I always wore leggings under our coats to keep our legs warm. They had suspenders to keep them up. We had wool caps to keep our heads warm. We had galoshes to wear over our shoes to keep them dry. When we had all that stuff on, it was hard to walk. And, if we fell down, it was hard to get up.
One day when we got home from school, my sister Ola’s husband, Jim, was there. He had built a big sled that a whole lot of people could sit on. He was going to hook it up to the car and pull us on it. I thought it was great. We lived on dirt roads, and there was hardly any traffic. He thought it was safe. Daddy was there, and he thought it was all right, too.
Jim and Daddy tied these big ropes to the sled and then to the bumper of the car. He had boards on the front of the sled to keep it from going under the car when he stopped. The snow was real deep. It had been snowing for a couple of days. About five or six of us kids piled on it. Daddy got on to make sure everything was all right. Jim started the car, and we started moving.
We went all the way around the block and were almost back to the house. It was so much fun! We all wanted to go again, but that was not going to happen. Mother pulled up in a taxicab. She was just getting home from work. She paid the driver and got out. She motioned with her hand for Jim to come to where she was.
He drove to the driveway, and she looked at him real mean and said, “What do you think you are doing?”
“Giving the kids a ride on the sled,” said Jim.
“Are you crazy?” she asked.
“I don’t think so, Ellen.”
“Well, I do think so.”
“What if this thing slides under the car? What if that rope breaks? Get off that thing right now!” she told us.
“And you, too, Elmer.”
We all started getting off slowly, hoping she would change her mind. She was pretty mad though, so I didn’t really see that happening.
Jim said, “I’m sorry, Ellen. I just thought it would be fun for them.”
“Getting killed or hurt is not fun. I can’t believe that you helped with this, Elmer,” she said.
Needless to say, the sled ride was over for good. Jim and Daddy got in trouble, and we missed out on a lot of fun all because Mother thought we would be hurt or killed. Jim and Daddy would not let us get hurt or killed, at least not on purpose.
A couple of days later, we had another big snowfall. We had school that day, so we had just got home and were trying to get warm. Daddy was home, too. He worked in construction, and when the weather was bad, he couldn’t work. He helped Mother out around the house when he was not working. He cleaned and started supper so she wouldn’t have so much to do when she got home from work.
Jim was not working that day either because he worked outside, too. I looked out the window, and I could see him in the front yard. It looked like he was building a snowman.
“Daddy, what is Jim doing in the front yard?”
“I don’t know, Ruthie,” he said.
“It looks like he is building a snowman,” I said.
“Well, maybe he is. I hope it’s not something to make your mother mad again.”
“Daddy, can I go outside and watch him?”
“I guess so, but put your coat and leggings on.”
I got my coat and leggings on as fast as I could. I put on my sock hat and went out the door.
“What are you doing, Jim?” I asked.
“Building a snow woman, Ruthie.”
“I never heard of a snow woman.”
“Well, take a look at her.”
I walked off the porch to look, and boy, was I surprised! The snow woman looked just like a lady. She had long straw for hair and eyes that looked real. She had red lips and rouge on her cheeks. She had a red scarf tied around her neck, but that was all she had on. She was a snow woman with no clothes on! I mean she looked like a grown-up woman!
“Jim, I think Mother is gonna be mad.”
“Mad about what, Ruthie?”
“Your snow woman.”
“Well, she looks pretty good to me.”
“But, all the neighbors can see her.”
“That’s why I built her. To look at.”
I had a real bad feeling about this. I went back in the house, and I told Daddy what Jim was building in the front yard. He looked like I had hit him with a ball bat. He grabbed his coat and hat and out he went. He got out there just as Mother was getting out of the taxicab from work. I didn’t go outside. I just watched out the window.
She walked over to the snow woman with this real mad look on her face. She said something to Jim and then to Daddy. Then she raised her foot up and kicked the snow woman down. She said something else to Jim, and he started laughing. Daddy was not laughing.
So that took care of the snow woman. Mother came in the house, and she was talking to herself she was so mad. She just took her coat off and went to the kitchen to start supper.
“You kids stay in this house. Do not go outside.”
“Yes, ma’am,” we all said.
She never knew that I had been outside and got to see the snow woman, or she would have had a fit. Daddy never told her either. Jim got in his car and left. He was just laughing. He really liked to tease my mother. He knew what she would do when she saw his snow woman. I liked Jim. I thought he was funny, and he sure knew how to get a rise out of my mother.
Now this was not a typical day in the life of little Ruthie.