The good ol’ days of snowball hooliganism 

Stained glass lamp shades and glassware often featured sporting scenes of the Adirondack region produced by Currier and Ives, out of New York City. The company was very fond of the Chateaugay Lakes where its artists spent time hunting and fishing the local woods and waters. (Image provided)

My ears are still ringing, and I can’t stop chuckling after engaging in some of the long, lost fun I enjoyed as a kid. Admittedly, I was somewhat of a delinquent, but not in the classic sense. We may have thought we were really bad apples at the time, but in comparison with the havoc others have wrought, we were mere choir boys.

The most recent winter storm was a real doozy, and it served to stir up fond memories of my younger days when kids from the local neighborhoods would engage in weekend-long snowball battles that often stretched from sunup to sundown.

Although I must admit, most of our “after dark snowballing” was purposely focused on vehicles from out of town. However, there were a few favorite victims who lived or worked in Elizabethtown, where I grew up. The Town Hill in Elizabethtown is strategically located on a high piece of land overlooking a four-way intersection on state Route 9 where traffic must stop in all directions. Prior to the completion of the Northway, Route 9 was the major corridor between Albany and Plattsburgh.

The location provided an ideal setting for prospective snowballers, as it offered numerous escape routes and plenty of hiding places in the nearby woods. Pity the poor out-of-towners who have jumped out of their vehicles in an effort to return fire. Most winter evenings, there were a dozen or more of the potential snowball flingers lined up on the hill, eagerly awaiting a potential target.

Of course, we quickly learned to size up our potential victims, who were primarily out-of-towners. We knew who would give chase, and who would not. Pity the dumb kid who pegged a snowball at the wrong vehicle.

Teachers usually got a free pass, especially the gym teachers, but we never spared the Principal.

Unfortunately, no such mercy was spared on the math or English teachers either. Even the student teachers were not spared. We were rightly branded as hooligans, which was widely considered as some sort of honor; until you got caught and forced to shovel driveways for the remainder of the winter, with no pay.

Throwing snowballs, or apples when they were in season, was considered a prank (admittedly, stupid one), but it was never intended to cause serious damage, and it rarely did.

I have heard similar teenage “war stories,” especially from friends who grew up in railroad towns such as Westport, Port Henry, Saranac Lake and Plattsburgh, where dropping a perfectly placed pumpkin off a bridge and down the smokestack of passing trains was considered the Grand Slam of Hooliganism. It is also illegal based on both state and federal law, and extremely dangerous. Needless to say, it is also stupid, as are most teens.

I forget the author, but not his quote, which pretty well sums up such acts of teenage destruction. He claimed, “When I was 13, I couldn’t believe how stupid my parents were; and when I turned 18, I was amazed to see how much they had learned in just a few short years.”

I suppose most most of us go through that phase, and fortunately, the phrase, “This too will pass, still rings true.”

But I will admit, there is still an odd compulsion that comes over me when I’m out in the driveway shoveling the most recent snowfall, and a plow truck drives by to deposit an extra few feet of fresh snow.

While I have learned to hold my fire, I do so grudgingly.

Winter has arrived

The recent storms have turned the local trails into a playground for backcountry skiers. The weather delivered enough wet snow to establish solid cover over the rocks, roots and logs that can get in the way. The heavy crust and significant base permits skiers to travel over just about any terrain.

The deep drop in temperature has solidified winter’s hard cover on the lakes and ponds. Caution is still needed, due to potential avalanche danger.

Be aware of broken limbs buried under the deep powder. I discovered it the hard way, when my skis went under a long limb across the trail. The rest of the show was a backcountry yard sale that left bits of my gear scattered all over along the trail. The snowpack is heavy and significant, and it has bowed many saplings and whippets under a firm crust, which permits skiers and snowshoers to travel almost anywhere.

Needless to say, ice cover on the lakes is safe for travel, although it is still wise to avoid traveling anywhere there is running water such as inlets and outlets. It is also important to remember the extent of thin ice that can be found in and around docks and bubblers.


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