A walk in the dry, powdery snow on Sunday, Jan. 17, felt like the world was brand new. The temperature had dropped to two degrees below zero and snow had fallen overnight. Sunshine brightened things a bit. Still, it felt like the world was frozen, spun around, and awaiting a thaw like life in the trees and fields was going to start from almost scratch.
Even those with many years experiencing donning scarves and gloves before venturing outdoors can be surprised by cold and snow on a bitterly frigid winter day, as if it’s a new thing. That’s a blessing of winter, that the world does not seem routine when the cold is deep and the nights dark.
The ice is as ancient as Earth and every generation must make their adjustments to a frigid landscape, perhaps even enjoy it’s benefits.
“Splendid ice — 18 inches thick,” Platte County historian W.M. Paxton wrote for Jan. 1, 1866. By that month’s end he wrote, “Fine sleighing.” He figured most people would understand this meant horses pulling sleighs across fields. He little envisioned we would regard snow as major hindrance for a horseless carriage.
Lest we think bitter politics are new, we can also look back a century and a half to the news in the county.
A dispute called the Civil War was officially over, but differences in opinion were still being decided.
“The Federal law requiring lawyers and preachers to take the test oath is decided unconstitutional and void,” Paxton wrote, referring to a Missouri state law struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1866. The law was aimed at keeping Confederate sympathizers out of post-war politics. That law and similar ones, however, would remain in dispute for some years.
Forgiveness was found in some quarters.
For Jan. 14, 1866, Paxton wrote: “Rev. Frederick Starr, the Presbyterian preacher driven from Weston at the time of the Kansas troubles in 1856, on account of his opposition to slavery, returns on a visit, and is kindly received and entertained.”
Perhaps Mr. Starr happened to limit his visit to old friends in very-Union town? Or maybe the fact that he could walk with the streets without attack was seen as major progress toward peace in a war-wearing county.
Human nature may have taken a turn for the better despite the war.
Maybe there’s hope for us then, as we start a presidential election year that citizens can move past the bitter politics of our times. Platte County was talking about railroads and community building in 1866, after a war that ended the year before.
Building strong communities should be our focus now. People driven by political ambition shorn of logic and common sense tear down the citizenry’s sense of purposeful community.
Winter seems very long and endless this week. So does the election season for state and national offices.
We must have faith that there will be an end to both.
Winter will refresh nature and spring eventually burst forth green and flowery. Elections will be done and time will prove we survived better than we thought we would. We know this to be true, even though the wind stings and the cold makes toes and fingers numb.
But do heed what Paxton wrote in early February, 1866: “a two-foot snow, drifting in places to five feet.”
Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area, may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.