Snowball Fight!

As the mid-Atlantic states are blanketed by an epic snow storm, residents are learning what midwesterners have known for a long time–snow is fun! Hundreds of people, prompted by Facebook and similar sites, have turned out at Dupont Circle for a massive snowball fight:
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This reminds me of some epic snowball fights during my South Dakota youth, and also of one of my favorite kids’ books–The Story of a Bad Boy, by Thomas Bailey Aldrich. It’s the story of a 19th-century boyhood in New England, and is, I think, pretty much true. It is by no means free of tragedy, and the protagonist, if not exactly bad, was certainly adventurous. Every boy, the narrator writes, should learn to swim, to box, and to pull an oar–this after a friend died because he could not capably handle a rowboat. The author, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, founded a notable New England family.
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My favorite chapter in Story of a Bad Boy was about a snowball fight between the two ends of the town where the author lived–North vs. South, or East vs. West, I forget. The snowball fight was plotted and carried out like a military campaign. Appropriately so, since both sides engaged in such dangerous practices as freezing their snowballs and packing them with marbles. I spent hours poring over this diagram of the field of battle:
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I’ve always loved that line: Nothing on earth could represent the state of things after the first volley. As I recall, “General” Harris led the protagonist’s team in the snowball fight and, some years later, fell before a Confederate cannon in the Civil War. The Story of a Bad Boy is great entertainment, and it also reflects a toughness of perspective, about boyhood and the human condition, that is bracing for modern youth. My son, although grown now, still says it is one of his favorite books. Mine, too.

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