A dusting of snow blankets the ground as I step outside this mid-December evening.

Random snowflakes fall from the heavens, as if shed from the wings of angels hovering overhead, silently descending in the ambient glow bathing the downy landscape.

All is quiet, hushed by the gentle snowfall and the deepening of the night. Not a creature is stirring, the cattle bedded on hay, the hens on their roosts, the dog curled snug in his house. All is at peace.

Of course this aura of serenity might be just an illusion — a fleeting instant in time — when I know just out of sight and earshot are cars skidding into ditches, wheels spinning on ice and anxious folk either trying to get home or waiting for some loved one’s headlights to come up the drive.

But I’ll savor it, despite those fearsome undertones — not just this present tranquil interlude, but the memory of many in my past, when I was just a boy and unafraid of winter’s snow, no matter how little or how deep.

Indeed, in my youth, the deeper the better.

Beyond the exhilaration of staying home from school were the adventures of exploring every deep snow. From that first step outside in early morning light, even bringing up the cows was a journey of discovery. We were, at that moment, no longer Ozarks farm boys, but explorers in a Jack London Klondike tale or Sergeant Preston of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Our principal quest, though, was neither discovering gold nor claim-jumpers, but the deepest drifts in the Northwest Territories of our little farm. And we knew exactly where we would find them, invariably plunging waist-deep into sculpted dunes along the western fence of the hayfield, filling both our boots and pockets with freezing souvenirs of our subarctic adventure.

As I grew a mite older and winter snows lingered, our exploits became more real than imaginary, finding me tracking cottontail rabbits with rifle in hand and bringing home supper on many a winter day.

Yet, on winter nights, when the moon shone like neon on the crust of blanketed snow, an aura of peace and serenity cloaked the landscape, much the same as on this mid-December night as I contemplate the gift of a dusting of snow.

Hamilton is a freelance writer and former editor of the Buffalo Reflex. Contact him at jhamilton000@centurytel.net.

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