Greetings from the truly frozen tundra of Richland County. When I checked the temperature earlier this morning we were sitting at a “Winter Has Come” -27 degrees Fahrenheit. Schools, governmental offices, and private businesses have closed due to the cold. My heart goes out to those who still have to go out and deal with the elements such as our farmer partners, electrical linemen, emergency workers, and county road workers.
This reminds me as a child of a couple of times during the 70’s when we had winter storms hit. During these times farming operations go into kind of a “reduced operation” mode. You simply get done what has to happen. Cows are milked, barn is cleaned somewhat, snow is removed, and calves are fed. And if you are raising calves in outside calf hutches this is one of the most brutal of all jobs, because the calves don’t want to come out either! Many times you are forced to jump over the fencing and into the hutch to get them out to feed them, almost doubling the time it takes. In below zero temps it added significant time to complete the basics but once those tasks were accomplished, we were able to retreat back to the house.
Typically this meant we had time to entertain ourselves. I grew up, for the first 8 years of my life, as the youngest of 4, one sister and two brothers. (My sister Joy came along when I was 8 and she is, again, a whole other future blog article.) As brothers, we were true rough-housers. My oldest brother, Ron and I, were wrestlers from early ages until we graduated from high school. So the first entertainment we started with usually consisted of a wrestling match in the front room. (NOTE: Ron is 7 years older than me and outweighed me by a good 120 pounds at the time, but I still competed, somewhat. I remember in organized wrestling at school the joy I felt when I actually got to wrestle guys my own age and size. “What, there are weight classes? And we are at least 4 years within age? This will be cake!”
Our brother Rob wasn’t as aggressive or physical as Ron and I were. However, when it got a little too rough he would slide back to the safety of the sofa and suggest new and torturous wrestling moves for us to use designed to inflict maximum pain. (If Game of Thrones needs any suggestions on painful wrestling moves, Rob could definitely help.) Funny thing, by the time I was 12, I was bigger than Rob. He interestingly avoided any wrestling matches with me by that point. I did get my retribution however! Every time Rob went to Grandma Richards’ house, she would ask him if he was ok and self-diagnose him as sickly. She was convinced he wasn’t healthy due to his slight frame and height compared to Ron and I, and she would force him to always have a glass of prune juice. I loved witnessing this, Grandma had diagnosed me as healthy to the point I did not need prune juice so I was simply an audience encouraging her on.
Back to the wrestling matches! Eventually, we would knock over furniture or break something which would quickly earn a scolding from our Mom and a proclamation that all wrestling was done for now. During this time Mom and Dad were attempting to read among the chaos and our sister Annette hid in her room trying to avoid the wrestling match. Mom would then challenge us to do something fun but a little quieter and productive. The activity of choice was typically a board game, specifically Monopoly. I loved to play Monopoly and as time wore on some cousins, our daughters, and my siblings learned that I was quite adept at it.
I can remember one such winter storm in which this scene played out and we eventually started a Monopoly game, Annette included. I believe I was somewhere around 8 years old. The game went on for some time, it was a battle royale. I was doing quite well, actually very well! So much so I had several hotels and houses on my properties and plenty of cash in the bank. The game had gone so long that I needed to make a trip to the bathroom. I understood the nature of my brothers so for this trip to the bathroom I took my Monopoly money with me. (Money from my personal funds had disappeared during previous trips to the bathroom and you never know if you want to buy something on the way back, right?)
Upon returning to the board game I immediately noticed all of my hotels and houses were gone. As you can imagine a serious line of questioning ensued and some pretty loud protestations. Eventually, the explanation was made clear by my oldest brother Ron, “Marty, while you were gone a tornado came through and destroyed all of your buildings.” What the heck? Since when are there natural disasters in Monopoly? He went on to explain, joined in by middle brother Rob, that absolutely there are tornado’s, hurricanes, and even earthquakes. But of course it can only strike once a game and unfortunately, I was the recipient of said one-time occurance. (I’m still trying to find this in the Monopoly rules, but they probably still stand by their claims.) And as our natural course would have it, this led to another wrestling match and the game getting upended to the point it was unrecoverable. Good times, good times.
I will say, those times as a close family, wrestling, playing board games, and working together did bind us together. We all still live within a 1 mile distance, almost all of us still on the family farm. We get together almost every Sunday for lunches with our parents and work together quite well to make sure they are healthy, happy, and their needs are taken care of. We have our issues, like any relationship with different personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. But we do enjoy family gatherings, catching up, and still working together. We haven’t had a family gathering break into a wrestling match in a while, not saying it won’t, just that it hasn’t. I have to say our parents did a heck of a job raising a pretty remarkable group.
I encourage everyone today to unplug, connect with that person or people in your house or apartment. Do something that builds the intimacy that develops long-lasting relationships, truly communicate together at something everyone enjoys together. It doesn’t have to be a board game. My daughters and I loved to play Guitar Hero together. We routinely would do that at home and on road trips in the motorhome. But if it is a board game, and it is Monopoly, be careful. Ithaca rules state, (Apparently?) there are natural disasters that can suddenly wipe out every building on that player’s Monopoly board. I would inquire if this rule exists with your group, and if so, can you buy insurance against such devastation?