(Reading time 7 minutes)
The students in my school were released at noon this day. It was just before the late predicted snow and ice storm that was to happen in the afternoon. It arrived as a mother-loaded blizzard. Cars couldn’t move in the blinding storm with the deep wet snow. I hitched a ride in a truck from school to my country road. I walked the last mile by foot from the main road to my home, in the crippling snow and ice.
This was in 1942, before dependable or accurate local storm warnings existed. The falling snow covered the road, which was actually a five or six foot deep notch along the higher fields and hillside. It was first ice, then snow drifts that filled the notched road. With great difficulty in the deep snow, I made it home, soaking wet from the snow. When I got to the back door, my hands were completely numb. As I fumbled for the key, I dropped it into the snow, on the stoop beside the door. It was lost into the drift. I was literally trapped outside and couldn’t get into my own house. No key, no Mom, no Dad. Both went to work downtown Philadelphia at 6:30 that morning, in clear skies. No one was at home. Even the dog was gone and found shelter somewhere. It was just me, in a blizzard, all alone.
The only place for me was the barn, with the horse and two cows. A few feet of snow was piled against the barn door by the wind. I couldn’t get the giant sliding door open. I finally found a small unlocked window in the stable and managed to climb in for shelter. At least now I was safe, but cold, very very cold, and you can’t make a fire in a barn. At least I was under roof with the cows and the horse and I could lie in the hay while I waited for my Mother and Father to get home, if they could.
As I explored the barn, trying to find something to keep me warm, I heard what sounded like a whimper. What was that? Not a cow. Not the horse. Over in the corner in an empty horse stall, was a little girl, wrapped in a horse blanket, shivering and whimpering. It was Tillie Younger, the pretty little German blonde girl with ice blue eyes. She lived on the neighboring farm. She wasall of 14 years old, pretty as a picture, but very shy. We always said hello as we passed, walking to our separate schools, but never more. Now she was whimpering and freezing, not wearing leggings, boots or goulashes or anything warm. She walked the same mile which I did, but with knee length plaid skirt, (school uniform) bare legs, bobby socks and saddle shoes. She could not make it another quarter mile, all the way to her home. Tillie decided to seek shelter in our barn until someone rescued her.
When she arrived, Tillie found the one door in the tack room which she could still open. She went in and settled down with a horse blanket and a lot of smelly, not so fresh hay. I felt happy to be there with her, all by ourselves. Tillie offered to share the horse blanket with me, and I quickly accepted before she changed her mind. I had never been this close to a girl before and was quite pleased by new feelings. To my delighted surprise, I was stimulated by the warmth of her body next to mine, in the hay under a horse blanket – with my arms wrapped around her, getting warmer every minute. She looked at me with big azure blue eyes, the look of puppy ready to lick my face with joyful thanks. Despite the freezing cold, I was melting. What a wonderful new feeling, for the first time in my life.
She recognized my fervor and started to pull away, telling me of her mother’s admonitions about young boys out of control. We were both 14. I have heard some improper things from other boys in school. I promised her to behave. She relaxed. We settled back, getting acquainted.
It took a few wonderful hours before the snow and the wind stopped. When the snowplows opened the road, I was sad in one way and so was she. It was near dark when my mother and dad returned home from their jobs downtown, forging the snow and freshly plowed roads with our family car. Frankly, I wasn’t too glad to see them and I don’t think Tillie was either, but it was getting dark. We agreed that such closeness could be dangerous and we could get in trouble exploring these feelings that neither of us ever experienced before. We agreed that God was watching, as said by our parents and ministers. These must be the things our Health class teacher spoke of in school. Tillie did mention to me however, before my folks took her home, that her mother and father both worked Saturdays and she hated being all alone all day. “I’m very lonely too, on Saturdays”, I said. “But we’re neighbors, right?” She agreed. I looked at her enchanting eyes and angelic face, now shrouded by long blonde hair, now invaded by pieces of hay. Her clothes smelled like the horse blanket in which we were wrapped, sharing life saving body heat exchange, for several delightful hours. I must have smelled likewise.
As we said goodbye, she held my hand affectionately, stroking it gently and saying, “We could do homework together.” “YEAH”, I said. “Next Saturday?” she asked. “Perfect”, I replied.
Well, the next Saturday finally came and went, but that is another story. I am often reminded of this puppy love experience with this pretty little blue-eyed, blonde girl. But I am not reminded of it by the freezing cold, nor am I reminded by snow, which we don’t have here in Florida – nor by the aroma of new mown hay in the morning mist. I am however frequently reminded of that pretty little German girl, whom I hugged so tightly and shared body heat, my first love, sweet little Tillie Younger, I am reminded of this day by the smell of a Horse.