My youth is far, far behind me, but I still throw snowballs when given the chance. I still see if I can hit a tree or pole, but shoulder surgeries have made my throwing, like other activities for other reasons, a relatively limp experience, and my targets are much closer than years ago. Even so, each time I pack together a snowball, I feel close to my boyhood and lessons snowballs taught me—how to make a good snowball; how to throw; how to lead a target; how to bob and weave to avoid thrown snowballs; how snowball fights could test my courage; and how my lying skills needed improving.
When I heard the news reports that snowball throwing was banned in a Wisconsin town, I could not believe it. Only a snowflake would want to do that.
On the other hand, I might support a ban on the Dreaded Ice Ball. We learned about the Dreaded Ice Ball through our experimentation in igloo building. We set out in the backyard to build a snow hut. At first, we just mounded snow, but it did not take long to see that walls could not be made in that way. Then someone had the idea of getting a cardboard box, filling it with packed snow, and unmolding it to make a large building block. Better, but no matter how much we tried to compress the snow, the block would crumble when another two or three were placed on top. Third idea: Take the snow block and douse it with a bit of water. Mom’s watering can was rescued from the house; the block was sprinkled; and after it froze, quite a good building material was made. In a normal cold time, when the temperatures were eighteen or twenty degrees, it took a bit of time for the freezing. After a few blocks were constructed and we were waiting around, someone wondered what would happen if snowballs were watered. The experiment began, and the Dreaded Ice Ball was formed. We learned that we had to make the snowballs a little bigger than normal because the sprinkled water shrunk them a bit. They felt heavier. They felt awesome. They felt dangerous. After some had frozen, we threw some against a tree. We heard a Thwak that sounded like a mini-explosion. These could hurt. We instantly realized these could never be used in our snowball fights. We did not want to get hurt, and we did not want to hurt our friends, and these could hurt. In these Cold Wars, this was a forbidden weapon.
And then one day right before the home room period began, whispers went around: “They are waiting for us after school.” No one defined “they.” It had to be the greasers, which in our town did not have the ethnic connotations it did elsewhere. It meant the tough kids. The kinds who had greased-back hair coming to a point in the back. In our provincial place, the hairstyle was a DT, a duck’s tail. Only the greasers could have been out to waylay us. No explanation passed as to why they had planned an ambush. In fact, my friends and I seldom intersected with the greasers. We didn’t have fights with them. But the warning struck fear. We did not want to admit it, but we believed they were tougher than we were.
As the morning went on, it was said they would be waiting at Tenth and Geele. But then the word changed; it would be Twelfth and Bell. The intelligence system was hardly perfect.
By noon, the word was around that they had stockpiled ice balls. The Dreaded Ice Balls. You could hear fear as this was whispered when the teacher’s back was turned. We would be underarmed. Snowballs are made on the spot, but Dreaded Ice Balls must be made in advance. A source of water is needed, and time is needed for the ice to form. This was dangerous. We did not have adequate means to fight back. That flinty taste of fear was in our mouths the rest of the day. Some were about to cry. What would we do when the school day ended? Would we take our normal ways home and pass the listed combat zones? Would some cowardly classmates take long detours to get to their houses? How would we fight? What if a Dreaded Ice Ball poked an eye out? It was the longest day of our young lives.
So I say, let there by snowballs. But ban the dangerous Dreaded Ice Ball.