Tag Archives: March 1975

Rock Island Rail snow tunnels: March 1975

This is a two-part story about the house where I lived in March 1975 and the perfect snow that cancelled school the entire first week of that month 37 years ago. Look for the conclusion on Tuesday.


From my Black Book of Great Adventures

March 5, 1975 — Four days ago I went fishing. Today is the fourth straight day of snow; about 18 inches on the ground, but not real cold. Our dog Mo-Mo is pregnent. Build more tunnels beside the tracks. Fritz got killed by the train, Leroy buried him. I said the prayer and thanked God for little dogs …

My list of Top 10 Weather Events of My Life, honorable mention, includes the heavy, wet snow that fell during the entire first week of March, except the 1st. The depth of the snow was memorable; but barely freezing air temperature created the most perfect snowman-building, tunnel-making snow of my life. My friends, Stacy and Lacy, lived just across the street, and the Rock Island Railroad ran within an easy snowball’s throw behind their house, chugging through Belle, Mo., on its route from Eldon to Union.

The rail was our ready-made path to adventure: animal bones (some complete skeletons of opossums, raccoons and similar critters, and skulls and other bones from deer and coyotes) that encountered the Rock Island train); the old vacation village of Gascondy and the Gascondy Railroad Trestle seven miles to the west, just south of Summerfield; and the much-closer Belle City Park Lake where we caught more than our share of bluegill, sunfish and bass for the better part of four years.

It seems like my family lived there so much longer, because when my mind goes back to the very best years of my childhood, I usually go back to the green duplex at the corner of Eighth and Swanson. The distance from my south-facing bedroom window to the railroad tracks was 25 paces. (Measured in 11-year-old boy paces).

That house was where I slept and ate and performed all imaginable – and unimaginable — chemistry experiments in my bedroom “laboratory.” If chemistry set Bottle A specifically warned, “Do not mix this chemical with Bottle B,” well, guess what? I’m pretty sure I passed out once or twice.

My “lab” shared space with two or more aquariums/terrariums that provided habitat for the snakes, field mice, crawdads, tadpoles, lizards, salamanders … well, everything I could catch. “My side” of the duplex is where my mom told me after school one day, “You know your father and I are getting a divorce.”

Some locations, some events — some exact moments — you never forget.

Just like I’ll never forget the joy and tragedy of the first week of March 1975.

Continued tomorrow …

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Filed under MIP: Memoir-in-progress