By Ralphine Major

“Have you heard the weather forecast?” the gentleman asked me as I was picking out produce at the grocery store.  “We’re getting snow,” he added as he gathered a bag of fruit.  A hint of excitement was in the air as folks waited for the first snowfall of the season.  The next day, mother nature dumped a mixture of snow and ice on East Tennessee.

The mention of snow brought to mind some of Knoxville’s most notable snow events.  The late eighties brought some huge snowfalls.  One came on Valentine’s Day and caught schools off guard.  Unable to get home safely, many students had to spend a Friday night in school gymnasiums.  Another snow fell on April Fool’s Day.  It was the biggest and only snowfall of the season, but was nearly gone by noon.  The ice storm of ‘82 paralyzed our area and brought daily routines to a standstill.  In 1993, power was out for days in a snow billed as the blizzard of the century.  People became stranded on their way home from work, and story after story emerged of stranger helping stranger and neighbor helping neighbor.  Our neighbor could not leave his job at the University of Tennessee Medical Center.   Since his replacement could not get there, our neighbor stayed and covered the next shift.  Wayne, my brother,  walked up to his farm in knee-deep snow to care for his animals.  He fed and watered the dogs and  carried water and feed to the mule in the stall.  Tending the cattle required more effort.  The pond was frozen.  Wayne had to chop the ice with an ax and push the chunks of ice in under the unbroken ice to make a hole so the cattle could drink.  Then, he gave them bales of hay to eat.

It is hard to imagine that such simple, delicate snowflakes can cause such chaos.  When  multiplied by millions, however, they can.  But, there is a serene stillness when a snow blankets the ground.  Daily activity slows.  When I look out at a new-fallen snow, all seems peaceful and quiet.  The recent snow reminded me how it dresses up the winter terrain.  Barren tree limbs are covered in lacy white, and the ground sparkles like diamonds.

Even the animals enjoy the snow.  Keela was our “snow” dog, and she absolutely loved the snow.  The Siberian Husky would romp in the snow for hours.  She was truly in her element when the white stuff fell.   Huskies are similar to the Alaskan Malamute breed.  I was interested to learn that these dogs were bred to be sled dogs, and mother nature gave them a fine layer of hair underneath their coat to protect their skin from the snow.  Of all the breeds of dogs that we had, Keela was our first and only husky.  She was a precious gift to our family when she was only a few weeks old.  We were so honored that our friend chose us to care for this special dog, and we searched for the perfect name—and found it.  Keela means beautiful, and that she was.  Beautiful and proud described her perfectly.  I had forgotten how small she was when we got her until I saw a picture of our family taking turns holding her.  An East Tennessee snowfall provided the background for our pictures with Keela.  One night we saw Keela curled up under the security light.  She slept on the snow-covered ground all night with snow falling all around.

Wayne remembered a story about Keela.  Instead of barking, Keela usually howled.  But one night, she barked and barked.  It was around ten o’clock and she continued barking ferociously.  Our father went to see what was wrong.  Keela had a snake cornered.  He killed the snake, and she quieted down.  Keela grew to be strong and independent, often distancing herself from our other dogs.

As I finish this column, another snow and ice storm is predicted for our area.  In a rare reflection back, I remember a beautiful husky dog who gave us a new appreciation for the snow.  Keela would certainly enjoy it!