First snowfall sparked anticipation in farm kids

Jerry Apps
A light dusting of snow covers the wood pile on the Apps' farm.

It came quietly in the night, hidden by the darkness when most people were sleeping. Like so many thousands of little pieces of cotton falling from the sky, this first substantial snowfall of the season turned a bleak and brown countryside into a world of white.

As strange as it may seem to some, as a kid, my brothers and I looked forward to the first snowfall. Now we could search for skis somewhere stored in the woodshed, find our sleds stored there as well, and look for our ice skates for soon the ponds and lakes would freeze and we could once more ice skate.

That morning, we hurried along the mile to our country school, wearing our four-buckle boots for the first time. Arriving there, we looked forward to the school outdoor games that could only be played when there was snow on the ground. Fox and Geese was the popular one—a kind of tag game that we played on our snow-covered softball diamond.

And I must not overlook the snowball fights—all in good fun when we hurled snowballs at each other, sometimes in an organized fashion, us against them. Or not organized, just random snowball throwing.

Of course, there was a downside to snow on the ground once more. Milk cows now spent both days and nights in the barn, which meant more chores to do, more straw to carry in for bedding, more manure to haul out each day.

The first snow marked the changing of the seasons, something we all looked forward to.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: When the seasons change on the farm, farm life changes as well.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work, go to