It Never Snows in the Valley

In 1936 my parents-to-be took advantage of Roosevelt’s land-settlement project and drove in the winter from Colorado the Northern California. They arrived in a snow storm and marveled that the locals commented on it so much. Eventually it dawned on my not-yet-parents that people were acting so unsettled because it never snows in the valley. Except it did.

Fast forward to the early 1970s. I’m sitting in Sunday School at the Assembly of God Church in Chico when I look out the window to see snowflakes the size of pancakes. Wow! I didn’t know they got that big.

The storm didn’t last long. We emerged from church to a white world, beautiful and dangerous. Because it never snows in the valley, we were unprepared. I eased my Mustang onto the road for my usual route home, on up the ramp of the elevated freeway, which was nearly deserted.

My first mistake.

Not all people drive cautiously in foul weather. A pickup truck whizzed by in the fast lane and kicked snow onto my windows. I was completely blinded. What do you do on the freeway when you can’t see where it goes? It was wrong to hit the brakes, but I needed to slow down until the windshield wipers could clear a view. I risked a tap to the brakes.

Mistake number two.

Whatever traction I had was completely gone. I took my feet off the pedals and held a firm grip on the steering wheel to keep it steady. All that was left for me to do was put my life in the Lord’s hands. Would I plunge off the freeway to my death? Being young, I had never before considered my own mortality.

My car drifted leisurely. I sensed it turning and noticed a brush of oleander leaves by my side window. My car was turning 180 degrees. The engine died. I could now see that I was on the other side of the freeway, perfectly aligned to take the off ramp. The oleander bushes showed no break in them. Somehow I had passed through without a scrape or a bump, as if they didn’t exist then. The way had been as smooth as drifting on ice. To this day, I ponder how that could have happened, short of a miracle.

With no further problems, I fired up the engine, took the off ramp, and crept home to a house magnificent in a coat of snow.

Someday my time to pass over will come, but not yet. Not just yet.

And it does snow in the valley, perhaps once every ten years.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Brian Piper
    Mar 30, 2017 @ 09:24:56

    Hello Gloria,
    I recall some conversation many years ago about earlier days of Lloyd and Edith in a snowy weather situation in California where they did just fine, but others not used to bad weather were disturbed about it. I never knew when this situation had occurred, but you clarified that in your story. I did not know it was when they first arrived in California.
    That was some miraculous event you had in the Mustang after your Assembly of God attendance in Chico. Welcome to icy roads. You apparently did the right thing. I am glad for that.
    Snow as big as pancakes? I’ve never seen that before. I know weather can be strange, but that observation I had never heard of. Definitely a weird event.


  2. Brian Piper
    Jul 01, 2017 @ 21:21:34

    Us in the northern California valley.

    Wow, I had not heard this story before, at least your Chico adventure, and seeing snowflakes as big as pancakes. I’ve seen some snow as I got older and made trips to the mountains, but even then it was never snowing very much at those times. Usually tiny flakes. It was enough to cover everything with white. In the valley, for about 25 years at least, I only saw heavy snow that one time. And I’m sure it was probably melted away within a day or two.

    I did hear the story about my my parents being in California when it had snowed and were amazed the local California people were somewhat overwhelmed by that event, whereas my parents were already used to snow since they had grownup in Colorado where it was a common event.

    Memories, and our individual histories, are sort of precious.


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