Snow sculpture (Early signs of artistic ability?)
One Saturday night in January 1973—just months before I graduated from high school—Nick Schmelter, Dave Pukall and I were driving around Antigo. They were both juniors. I “drove around” a lot, either alone or with various buddies—even once or twice with a girl! We are always looking for something to do so we’d drive endless loops around town (gas was around 30 cents a gallon. A dollar’s worth of gas would return the gas gauge to where it was when the evening started.)
That particular night the temperature was in the upper 20’s and it was snowing moderately. We did a few of the usual loops: past the playgrounds at St. Mary’s and East Elementary school to see if Muraski or Reggie were shooting hoops under the single light, past Lisa Barowsky’s, Margie Sperl’s and Anne Whiting’s houses, blowing the horn and driving off, trying to be cool. We were in Nick’s 1965 Thunderbird and Neal Young’s “Harvest” was in the 8-track player.
We drove by the high school. I don’t know why. There was nothing going on there that night. The place was dark and empty. Snow was piling up in the large grassy area in front of the school. The snow looked just right for making snowmen, so we got out of the car and started rolling big balls of snow to pile up and make a snowman. But we couldn’t lift them, so Nick said, “Why don’t we make a fist instead?” “Yeah, lets aim it at the Aucutt’s (the Principal) office window,” I said. Nick and Pook “OK” and we rolled three 36” diameter snowballs into a line.
Now, I’m not sure who suggested it—it was either Schmelter or me—Pook would never suggest a thing like this, but someone said, “Hey, let’s put a middle finger on it.” We took off our mittens, curled up our fingers and extended the middle to make a “model” of what we were going to build. We saw how the thumb came across the other three fingers and how high the middle finger extended. We packed and piled up snow to make the thumb and the middle finger. We kept taking off our mittens and checking our “model” against the snow sculpture. We added snow here, carved away some there, put a knuckle and a fingernail on the middle finger. Six hands carving and packing made for quick work and within minutes we stood back and admired our completed masterpiece.
“We gotta have a picture of this,” I said. “Let’s drive to my house so I can get my camera.” By this time it was past 10:00 and Mom and Dad were in bed. I grabbed my little Kodak Instamatic and we drove back to the school. Nick and Pook posed on either side of the sculpture. They looked pleased.
Mom worked in the principal’s office. Aucutt was her boss. She had ways of finding out things and I never found out how she know I made the snow sculpture. On Monday morning I was called into Aucutt’s office. I was shaking. Nick and Pook weren’t summoned. Mr. Aucutt asked if I made the sculpture and I said yes. “Well,” he said, “it’s not appropriate, you know that, right?” I nodded. “Now if you go out and remove the finger we will let the snow sculpture stay.” To this day that stuns me. So I rushed out, sliced off the finger and set it alongside the rest of the sculpture. The fist and finger lasted several weeks before being knocked over and flattened.
Graduation came and I finally finished up the roll of film and took it to the drug store for developing. A week later I got the photos back. The grass had returned to the school yard, but there in the photo taken months earlier photo are Nick and Pook in a snowstorm standing alongside “the finger.” I showed the picture to Mom and she just said, “I know.”