The snow castle of my youth

I was about 9 years old, I think. It must have been around then. That summer, we had moved to a new house, and I spent the next few months getting new friends. Especially the boy who lived on the other side of the road. We used to run through our garden, down to the road running in the little valley between our two houses. We'd steal some strawberries or perhaps some apples on the way, although stealing from your own garden probably isn't stealing in the first place. We spent the summer shooting with airguns at paper targets and tin cans. We smoked grass. Not marijuana, but hollow pieces of reed. It tasted awful and had no intoxicating substance of any kind, but it made us feel old. Mature. Men. We were men indeed.

Autumn came, and the hills around my house became slippery and wet with fallen leaves, over-ripe apples and bucket upon bucket of rain. To school. From school. Rain. Rain. Rain.

Until - in the unavoidable splendour of suburban Norway - the snow came. First a little bit, just enough for our first snowfights. We would discuss on how we best could defend our hillside against intruders, by using the trees as base for our snow fortresses, and building an intricate system of tunnels and a supply network. Oh, we had it all. The air rifle broke at some point, but we didn't mourn it for a second. Snow was more fun.

When the first few snowfalls had lazily drifted down from the sky and melted away again, as the winter was struggling to take hold, we spent the time indoors, trying to program computer games in Hypercard. Those were the days.

Then, one day in December, winter finally came. We had a few nights of freezing cold, and the old familiar hillside stopped giving in to the running feet of nine year olds. The frost had set into the ground like a loaf of bread gone rock hard. And then the snow came.

They spoke of the winter with the heaviest snowfall in fifteen years. We didn't give a damn, and wished it would never stop snowing. The snow fell at night, and the sun kept us warm enough to be playing in it for hours and hours during the daytime. Skiing up and down the little mountain side hundreds, probably thousands of times. We sped down the road between our houses, reducing the light powdered snow to a tightly compressed layer of ice, to the utter despair of my friend's parents, who tried to drive up the road, but had to give in - despite of snow chains and gravel - and park their cars at the bottom of the slope.

Oh, we ruled that corner of our village with force and happiness. Then, one day, we decided it was time. There was enough snow, and the spell of hot days had made the snow sticky enough to be able to make proper snowballs. It was time to build our castle

The snow castle

The castle was planned down to the square inch. Not on paper - that would be wasting valuable building time. But we had staked out (literally) its outer wall. it was to be 7 meters wide and 10 meters deep. The walls were more than 1 meter 70 centimeters tall, and were to be more than a meter thick. Nobody would be able to take over our snow fortress. We started building, and spent every scrap of spare time for more than two weeks. The walls were inforced with hidden wooden planks and ironwork. We built tunnels that went to nearly 20 meters away from our castle. We made separate caves for our arsenal of snowballs. The only reason we ever went inside was to change our gloves into dry ones, or to steal candy from the pantry. We were ruling the world.

As the castle started to be finished, we decided to expand it further. Caves, tunnels and even a self destruct mechanism of sorts was put in place. We had a hidden snow cave filled with chocolate and other emergency rations - in case we snowed in and would not be able to make it to my house, a full 30 meters away from the castle. We discussed how we could improve the castle when we were at school, and worked on the improvements while we were off school. We even slept in the bloody thing.

When my friend's cousin came to visit them with their family over christmas, we dared them to a snowball fight with us. They were several years older, but never stood a chance against us and our well planned defence tactics. They gave up after about an hour, and we celebrated by plundering our own chocolate reservoirs.

After about 50 days, we had built and added so much to the castle that we couldn't think of anything else to add to it, short of getting electricity and a roof, so we could move in there. We had the biggest, meanest, strongest and best snow castle that was ever built. Ever.

But we had nobody to fight.

Which was when we came up with a great plan. Why didn't we start attacking random people? Everybody who walked past the castle on the road at the bottom of the hill was a potential threat. Perhaps we should attack them, to teach them a lesson, and to tell them to never ever even think of attacking our snow fortress? So we did.

Of course, we didn't think far enough to remember that the road running at the bottom of the hill was a dead-end street. Everybody who ever used that road was a) going the wrong way, and was looking for a place to turn their car around or b) our neighbours. Considering there were only 8 houses on our street, word got around pretty fast, and my parents - when they heard from our 72 year old neighbour that we had attacked her - told us to stop it, or they would take our castle down. So we didn't attack anybody anymore. But nobody attacked us either, so we destroyed our fortress, the pride of our lives, because we had nothing better to do.

But we sure showed them, while it lasted.


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