The snowball hit me right square in the face, instantly covering my glasses and stinging like a Mr. Misty headache. This was fun. And it meant war.
I wasn’t even sure who threw it. Probably my older brother Dave, but it could have been any one of the many neighbor kids in our back yard. The snow was too soft for sliding but perfect for making really tightly packed, hard snowballs and the materiel was everywhere. You can’t have wars like this in summer.
We took sides which was always the big guys against the little guys. I don’t think I ever graduated to the big guys group because the age divide was always somewhere between Dave and me, a four-year difference. It probably still would be, even in our sixties.
“Come on!” I hollered to the little guys. “We gotta make a bunch of snowballs fast!” I had made myself platoon leader since I was oldest and it was our yard. The little guys group varied for these skirmishes but mostly included Tom, Tony, Mike, Jerry and younger brother Warren (Woof to us). The big guys group was typically Dave, Arnie, and a couple of Dave’s school friends.
We quickly jumped behind a snow pile next to the driveway and started making our bombs. We didn’t have a battle strategy. Just make snowballs.
“What are we gonna do?” Woof asked. Being the little guys I just assumed we’d have to get ready for a frontal assault by the big guys. “Just keep making snowballs,” I barked.
The quality of the bombs decreased the faster we made them and the deeper snow was colder so didn’t pack well. But we didn’t despair. Yet.
“Yeeaaah! Get ‘em!” Their battle cry was unmistakeable. The offense was coming from behind the neighbor’s garage where they had been making their own bombs.
“Here they come! Load up,” I said. I loved this leadership role even if we were doomed. My knitted mittens were soaking wet, my hands were as cold as the snow, and my toes were numb. But that didn’t matter now. We stuffed a couple of snowballs in each coat pocket, grabbed one to throw and prepared to fire.
Bam! Bam Bam! A hundred bombs filled the air as the enemy approached. We held them back for a bit with our intense defense. Since they were charging, they quickly ran out of ammo and had to retreat for more. I saw this as our chance to make a counterattack.
“Let’s go!” I whispered. “Load up and half of you go around the garage on one side and half on the other.” I needed to point some of my men in the right direction or they might have gone around the wrong garage.
We spread out and, in separate groups, started around the opposite corners of the garage only to suddenly hear their battle cry again. This time we returned the greeting.
“Yeeaah! Blast ‘em!” we all screamed. We gave them everything we had, which wasn’t anything more than we carried with us and what we could make on the fly. For a short time there was more snow in the air than during a January blizzard.
When the ammo was depleted, the battle devolved into hand-to-hand combat. We little guys were pushed into the snow and got our faces washed. But we got enough licks in to earn some respect from the big guys.
“OK, reset!” Dave yelled. He was the leader of the big guys and, unquestionably, overseer of the entire war game. My group retreated to our snow pile but then moved to the top of our backyard hill. We geared up.
“This time they have to come up the hill to attack us which is a lot harder. Just be ready and when we run out of snowballs, charge ‘em and try to take ‘em down. We’re shorter so we have the advantage.” I knew that was unlikely but I needed to encourage them. “I’ll call the charge.”
We held a snowball tightly in each fist. Our mittens were now dripping with melting snow. Suddenly we heard their battle cry and saw them coming up the hill. I turned to my men and ordered them to load up just as I was hit from behind by a hard snowball.
The big guys reached our line but were tired from the climb. I hollered, “Now!” A couple of us managed takedowns but it was for naught. We got our faces washed again, which is the way it always ended. Maybe I’d get a Purple Heart for my efforts.
This time, before we could do a reset, we heard yelling from far off. “Tom, time for supper!” And just like that we heard more distant calls for us to come home. What was it about moms and their timing?
“Aww, Mom! Can’t we play just a little bit more? We were just getting going.” But we knew better and suddenly I realized that I was cold, wet and hungry. We all must have felt that way because we cleared out in a hurry. It’s hard to have a war without soldiers.
As we removed our wet clothes on the back porch, the smell of pork chops quickly diverted the attention of the Johnson brothers. The battle was over and relegated to history.