Alabama Snowmen Offer Warm Hug To Weary Traveler
By Coulter Fussell
It snowed. It straight up snowed.
I was aware that the snow was not going to come very early Wednesday. I was prepared to wait. But anyone in Water Valley with kids knows the excruciating pain we all endured dealing with our children Wednesday morning. Being stuck in a house with a kid who wants snow but is not getting snow is a certain type of torture. The hours of cold, icy sleet and freezing rain was turning my seven year-old into an angry, bitter old man (think Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino.) I felt so sorry for my four year-old that I let him put on all his “snow clothes” (about five of his thicker t-shirts, a jacket, three pairs of pants, and a hat I knitted him when he was an infant) to go play in the sleet. I figured he’d never really seen snow so he wouldn’t know the difference. He didn’t but he came back about 15 minutes later soaking wet, borderline hypothermic, and declaring it the greatest day of his life, in a very obligatory manner. He then asked to run him a hot bath where he could take his nap.
As my four year-old shivered in a bath tub and my seven-year old sat motionless on the sofa staring at the wall with a furrowed brow and hardened heart, I became a praying woman. Well, it worked! Who knew?!
Hours and hours and hours of snow later my little Clint Eastwood ran up to me with big eyes, hands covered in bread sacks and socks ( i.e. the Southern Snow Glove) and declared,”This the best thing that has ever happened in Water Valley! It makes you so happy that…that…you could just cry.” He’s my sensitive one.
My four year-old, on the other hand, came out with such gems as “Mama! This makes me want to throw 100 snowballs at the faces of all the people in the whole town!” and “Mama! You can’t even believe it! Snow tastes like cold water!!”
I had to drive all the way across Alabama the very next morning, right through the track of the storm. My much-loved grandmother died back in Georgia and I wasn’t going to let any sort of apocalyptic weather phenomenon stop me from being with my mother for my grandmother’s funeral. I drove very carefully as one funeral for my family that week was enough. I can’t say everyone else on the road was very careful, though. Between here and Birming-ham, I saw three different cars spin out with wild abandon all over the road, one barely missing me. It was beyond scary. But they were going fast over the lanes that were literally covered in snow and ice. It was confounding and irresponsible.
Along my frightening drive down Highway 78 I began to notice the occasional snowman. Not so unusual in a freak snowstorm, yes, but very unusual in that these snowmen were on a deserted stretch of highway that runs from Tupelo all the way to Jasper, Alabama. There are no houses, no towns. Only road…and, this time, snowmen. Every ten minutes or so I would see a snowman built about two or three feet from the side of the highway, rocky smile beaming toward the highway from the median, stick arms outstretched as if offering a hug. It was so mysterious.
Eventually, it occurred to me that these snowmen peppering miles of empty highway had been built the night before by people who had gotten stuck in the snow, no rescue until the morning. These people were at home now, warm and thankful, leaving behind nothing of their surely awful ordeal except homemade evidence of the joy that the natural world can bring. What had they done the night before, in the dark and cold, when they could not go home? They had gotten out of their cars. They built snowmen. A sweet sight for sore eyes driving through North Mississippi back home to Georgia.