We are a fickle people; we bellyache when it rains too much, we moan when it rains too little, we wail when it snows too much and we gritch when it doesn’t snow at all. Is anyone else besides me old enough to remember when it used to snow here in the winter? Now I know I’m exaggerating as it hasn’t been that long, but it sure seems like forever since we’ve had a snowfall worthy of winter.

I grew up in central Ohio, where snowstorms and the occasional blizzard were just part of winter. Our house set back nearly 200 yards off a gravel road. The field on one side of the drive and the pasture on the other side each had a couple high spots in them, but the driveway had been cut through those high spots, leaving it straight and flat, but also leaving the ground on either side of it higher than the drive at those two places. The driveway ran north and south, so a pure north wind during a snowstorm cleaned out the driveway. But any wind from the west or northwest piled snow in those two places by the foot. Many a winter we had to leave the car or truck for a few days at the end of the drive next to the road where we had scooped out a parking place, or we had to drive through the pasture and climb the fence to get to the house.

Over the years I’ve had a love-hate relationship with snow. I used to like snow until I began working in the maintenance department at the local nursing/retirement home. There, the battle cry concerning snow removal was “If it’s covered, we will move it.” We maintenance guys had snow shovels in hand and snow blowers idling before the first flakes ever hit the ground. My supervisor and I never saw eye-to-eye when it came to snow removal; I understand he had to take his stand because of liability issues, but I always argued if people couldn’t manage to drive through a few inches of snow, they should stay home in the first place. Anyway, one of the things I looked forward to when I retired two years ago was sitting in my recliner in front of my big picture window drinking a cup of hot chocolate while it snowed and blew like crazy outside, all the while knowing my buddies at the retirement home were bustin’ their humps pushing snow shovels. You see how that worked out!

Snow in measured amounts can be great for outdoorsmen. Our ground is often so hard in the fall when setting coyote traps that tracks are barely visible unless the ground is sandy. Tracks play the major role in telling me where to set traps. The terrain can be textbook perfect for coyote travel, but if there are no tracks it’s probably not worth my effort to set a trap there. Snow solves that problem. A couple inches of fresh snow are absolutely perfect for showing hunters and trappers tracks and other critter signs we can’t see in the dry soil. Coyotes like to travel frozen creeks and streams, and I remember following a set of coyote tracks down the middle of a frozen drainage ditch a couple years ago. I could see every step the coyote took, everywhere it stopped to nose around where it entered and exited the ice. I would never have seen any of that without a little snow. Ditto for deer hunters; a nice tracking snow will show things we can’t otherwise see, like where deer might be routinely jumping fences or bedding down & entering or exiting thickets or swamps.

Snow is wonderful moisture, as it seems to contain elements from the atmosphere beneficial to everything green. Snow is also a wonderful insulator, often insulating and protecting the new wheat when temperatures remain sub-zero for a spell. From my youth, I remember some of the biggest snows of the season coming in March, and an April snowfall is certainly not out of the question here. On years like this when warm weather seems very premature, wildlife nurseries can be full earlier than usual also, and late season snow and ice can be very harmful to nesting or already hatched upland birds. For moisture, spring snows are just as beneficial as actual winter snows, but are usually very wet and hard to move. I guess ` I’m thinking as I write this is maybe, just maybe we’ll get some snow yet, and hopefully when that hard April freeze hits, there will be snow on the wheat to protect it. Either way, continue to explore Kansas Outdoors!

Steve can be contacted by email at stevenrgilliland@gmail.com.