KEVIN TATE: Veterans’ sacrifices, smiles mark value of freedom

KEVIN TATE

A sharp, biting wind, the kind that only seems to blow in February, told me I hadn’t worn enough clothes, but I was already out of the house and on my way to work. It seemed too late to turn back. I picked up my pace to the truck, hurried in and closed the door, started the engine and looked through the rain-speckled glass, turned on the wipers and shivered, waiting for the air from the vents to warm.

Outside, the skies were dull gray and it felt like it might sleet or snow. I couldn’t help but remember, the Old Man loved days like this.

On the nastiest, February-in-Mississippi days, the kind when rain turns to ice on the highway, forming spiky gray sheets on the backs of wheel wells, the Old Man loved nothing better than to go for a drive. My northern friends like to make fun of us for closing schools when our roads freeze, but I’ve driven in their snow and there’s not much to it. Snow that stays snow is like driving through mud or sand. If you slow down a bit and don’t do anything foolish, you probably won’t have any trouble. Then, before it packs into ice, their highway departments come along and scrape it off. It doesn’t generally work like that down here.

I remember watching the Old Man’s face light up in the blue gloom that shone through bare pecan limbs and filtered into his living room window.

Later, when enough soft snow had accumulated to make it worth his while, he’d go out and scoop a bowlful that Grandmother would make into snowcream, a treat surely enjoyed only by people desperately short of treats.

The Old Man was thin as a whisper, but not from lack of eating, and he was an ice cream fanatic, keeping gallon buckets of the stuff on hand year round. The first time I heard him mention snowcream, then, I assumed it must be something magical, but the result was just disappointing, at least to me.

“My mother used to make this as a treat for us kids,” he said, smiling as he scooped his portion into his mouth, a sentimental attachment to the dish that was clear even then.

Before snowcream time, though, the Old Man would take to the roads to brave the elements and see what he could see.

“You can’t just enjoy the clear, sunny days,” he’d say when he returned. “Some days are sunny, and some are rainy. Some are windy and, on others, it snows. There’s something worth seeing in them all.”

Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.

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