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Question: Hey! I guess it’s officially winter! Any good tips for keeping our snowmen from melting?
Answer: Snowman, that classic anthropomorphic trio of large, medium, and small balls of snow, armed with sticks and eyes of coal, a friendly winter face to all passersby, grinning broadly beneath a long, carrot nose! Hail, snowman!
Sadly, the great snowman’s days are as numbered as the winter months, and so he’s never known the natural wonders of spring. What can you, protector of snowmen, do to ensure their survival past the great thaw? Well, let us see…
Building an Army
‘Dashing through the snow,’ you mutter to yourself as you trudge through the snow-logged forest.
You waited weeks for this moment—the moment in the season when the snow’s at its thickest, and most plentiful. You donned your winter gear, grabbed a few large sacks of carrots, and headed up, up, up the mountain in search of the mythical deep, treasured banks from which you plan to mold your mighty snowman army.
For hours you’ve been searching, fruitlessly. And then, as you cross yet another treeline, you find it: the perfect snow bank.
You drop to your knees, weary, but still you dig, pulling forth the powdery substance of your descendants, your approaching army. Roll, roll, roll…
‘Small ball!’ you exclaim, and you set the sphere down.
Roll, roll, roll…
‘Medium ball!’ you exclaim, putting this one down in what will be the next area of the assembly line.
Roll, roll, roll…
Days later, the troops complete, you call your army together for an introductory assembly.
Everyone gathers, in formation, in the center of the snowfield. And they look grand: strong, wooden stick-arms in place, each soldier proudly displaying his carrot nose.
‘Soldiers! It is winter again! And I have created you!’
The soldiers stare back at you, silent.
One in front, an infantrysnowman, raises his hand. ‘Sir?’
‘Sir, may I inquire…how will you save us?’
You step forward, so you’re standing next to him. ‘From what, soldier?’
The soldier looks around at his comrades, then leans in close and whispers:
‘From the thaw, sir.’
Finding a Safe Haven
Upon completion of the snowfort construction, and after filling the base with provisions for the rest of the winter, you order routine scouting missions in hopes of finding possible refuge from the impending warm season.
And all the while, you can sense the troops’ worry.
You get a report from the front line that, while out on his daily patrol, one of your reconnaissance snowmen infiltrated the front yard of a suburban house and spotted a young boy carrying snowballs back inside. Your man watched the human store the snowballs inside a large white box with a door—labeled ‘For spring!’—but was unable to continue his surveillance after neighborhood youths stole his eyes to use as ‘buttons’ for some freakish creation of their own.
‘My god,’ you think, ‘will they stop at nothing?’
At that moment one of your lieutenants ices into the war chamber: ‘Sir, we’ve received word of a supermarket!’
‘The frozen-foods section, sir, it’s gold! My own nose was once housed in that produce department. They have walk-in freezers, don’t you understand?’
You’ve summoned your grand vizier, Frosty, for a conference.
‘Yes, Frosty, I can see the opportunity…but how will we breach such a fortress?’
‘Sir, I’ve been waiting for the right moment for this.’ Frosty reaches behind his bottom snowball and produces a small wooden sled.
‘What…what is it?’
‘This, sir, is a toboggan. It was ridden by your father, and your father’s father before that.’
‘Only you can ride it, sir. No snowman alive can stay on such a slick surface at such high speeds.’
He hands you the toboggan. You hold it gingerly, noticing its well-polished walnut sheen and shining chrome handrails.
‘I waxed it only yesterday, sir.’
With both hands, you grip the rails of the sled until your knuckles turn as white as…snow.
‘Sir, their defenses are too strong! And the first thaw is approaching!’
Frosty eyes General Hailstone carefully: ‘He’s well aware of such things, General–’
Hailstone turns to you, sharply: ‘Then what do you plan to do about it?’
You look up from the maps and diagrams on the table and calmly reply, ‘General, what do we have in the armory? I want to know everything.’
‘Just the usual snowballs packed with flecks of ice. For added pain.’
‘Because we’re going in—here.’ You point to the grocery store’s front sliding doors.
Hailstone almost loses his top ball. ‘Are you mad, sir? That’s a head-on attack! The freezers are at the back of the store! Our artillery will be slush before we get past the cereal aisle!’
‘I’m going in…alone.’
Frosty crosses his stick arms and winks behind the General’s back, as much as coal can wink.
The Final Stand
On the morning of the raid, you wake early and don your long underwear, two pairs of mittens, an insulated parka, and moon boots. You go over the plan in your mind: Storm the front doors, turn up the air-conditioning as high as it goes, which will send the customers streaming out of the store, then send up one of your flares to signal the troops. You stuff a long-stemmed lighter and a handful of lighter-fuel-soaked briquettes into your knapsack, you grab the toboggan, and depart your igloo.
An hour later you reach the north ridge, above the supermarket. Already, cars have started to arrive.
‘Getting in an early day of shopping, I see…’
Along the ridge you can see a slight slope with a short lip at its end. On the closer side you can see a snow bank. Luck would have it, you think, that it’s the same on the other side. You look down at the toboggan in your hands. You’ll have to be precise on this one.
You begin hiking up the ridge, feeling the ice below your boots slightly crunching, showing signs of moisture. You know you must hurry—the thaw is near!
You reach the top of the slope, mount the toboggan, give the cinch-strings on your knapsack a good tug and kick off the peak. The toboggan grinds and slurs down the slope. You begin to veer too far to the right and, leaning all your strength first into the turn, then back, you’re able to straighten up. The lip of the slope is fast approaching, but as soon as you hit it, it shatters in a mound of slush!
Sailing straight down, toward the edge of the parking lot, you’re blinded by the shining, bright, warm sun. Your body slams into the asphalt, softened only by what slushy snow is left in the season. And there, in the watery snow of the parking lot—your toboggan reduced to splinters, your bones, not broken, but too weak to stand—you lie.
You first try to move one arm. It moves! You move it, flat on the ground, first up, then back, then you repeat with the other arm. And you sweep one leg, side to side, back and forth, and then the other, until, from somewhere far above, it could be seen that you’ve created an altogether different, yet familiar, wintertime pattern.
‘Snow angels…’ you gasp, ‘would have been so…much…easier…’