A Winter Story

By Kurt Bangert

Winter, it’s here, and in these parts we don’t have a choice in the matter. But instead of a few paragraphs lamenting it, I’ll embrace it, enjoy it, and savor it while I can. Some of my favorite memories have happened during the winter months. For instance, Prague in winter is beautiful: no crowds, warm pubs, hearty foods; there’s nothing quite like walking those ancient streets in the evening during a light snowfall. It’s an experience that I recommend, and personally, will make happen again.

Winter can also inspire mischief, and in the very snowy winter of 1978, there was a lot to be had. Back then my friends and I spent a lot of time outside in the winter: snowmobiles, pond hockey, cutting school to go hunt rabbit, and whatever else we could think of. One night is particularly memorable. Twas the night two of us convinced one of our friends to sell us his 1962 Mercury Capri for $50. We then proceeded to cut the doors, windshield, and top off the car and 30 minutes later it became our snow wagon. And that’s how the partnership of “up to no good” came to be.

Since this was a partnership, we agreed to a shared custody arrangement. Part of the time my friend would keep the car at his house, part of the time I would have it at mine. Our parents were not amused. We lived on opposite sides of town. In that winter of record snowfall and record cold temperatures, we came to regret the decision to cut the windshield off, but it was too much fun to leave alone. On one of my crosstown transfers, I noticed a group of my friends playing pond hockey and in a moment of teenage brilliance, I decided that cutting cookies on the ice would be an impressive display. So off I went onto the ice with the snow wagon, merrily spinning and sliding. However, there was one problem, maybe two. 

Neither problem is what you might be thinking as the ice was, at least, two feet thick by then. No, problem one was that the pond was right on the fairway of hole three at the local golf club in direct view of the clubhouse. Problem two was that I ran out of gas.

My original plan (if it can be called that) was to get on the ice, have a little fun and get out of there before the groundskeeper or the cops had time to arrive via the snowy streets. Running out of gas was an unplanned complication, though quite amusing to my friends. I sprang to action, my house, and the gas was only a half-mile away. I ran. Hard. Friends scattered as none of them wanted to explain the situation. Fortunately, there was gas in the can but the run back seemed as if it were an eternity. Gas in, snow wagon started, groundskeeper jogging toward the pond yelling something that I didn’t want to hear, I floored the little snow wagon, rocketed it off the ice and into the street, a place where its operation was equally illegal. Slide around corner one, four blocks, slide around corner two, home three more blocks: a little light at the end of this self-created panic tunnel. Now, where to hide this thing!

In the end, I was able to hide the snow wagon sufficiently with no one in any kind of authority the wiser, allowing the snow wagon to entertain us for the rest of that winter and into the next summer. Eventually, the abuse was too much and the little Capri died an ignoble death in a fence row of a nearby farm field. 

My only regret: That ‘62 Capri was a pretty neat little car, and I have never seen another one in the United States despite looking for a number of years. I’ve always hoped we didn’t youthfully murder the automotive equivalent of a unicorn. 

But you know, it was a heck of a lot of fun.