SNOW SNAKES AND SNOW DOUGHNUTS
AUTHOR; LARRY HACKMAN
We all do know what snow doughnuts are, but we hear very little about snow snakes?These are both documented and verified on the internet.Snow doughnuts are described as small avalanches.A large chunk of snow breaks off the pack at the top of the mountain.It starts to roll; it becomes larger, and round in shape. It rolls so fast that the center, due to its weight, spins out of the rolling ball of snow. Leaving behind what looks like and is a snow doughnut.Now, it’s not uncommon for the centers to continue rolling down the mountain and creating more snow doughnuts.This depends mostly on the height of the mountain, how steep it is and the amount of snow on the slope.That is why; in the valley below you may find a baker’s dozen.
When these snow doughnut stories first appeared on this blog it peaked my interest as I often heard stories about snow snakes from this fellow I worked with for many years.I thought he was joking.I wrote and talked to him about this snow doughnut phenomenon.
We agreed that these two phenomenons could be connected and that this was no joke. He then told me, the full story about the snow snakes. The following is my recollection of the information and experiences that my friend had accumulated on this unknown phenomenon and how he discovered a connection between the snow snake and the snow doughnut one cold snowy winter on the slopes of Butte St. Paul, Turtle Mountains, North Dakota.
My Norwegian friend, that I worked with as a young man on a survey crew cautioned me that we have to be careful not to get bitten by a snow snake. He would often shout in the middle of a job when everyone was concentrating on what they were doing, watch out; snow snakes.He was always on the lookout and always cautioning everyone on the crew, that we have to keep our skin covered and protected from the snow snakes.Now I want you know I grew up in North Dakota where we had snow every winter and I have never before heard tell of snow snakes or ever saw a snow snake.My Norwegian friend explained that they are very common to Norway, but they have pretty much migrated from there to every place on earth, that has or gets snow.I asked if they were a descendant of Lutefisk, He didn’t think so, but you never know what happens in the snow or in the fiords of Norway? I guess what happens in the fiords, stays in the fiords.
Now you are wondering what significance does something that you never see and does not harm anything, matter.Well, do you remember them huge white pussy capped, bright red preturbances that would magically appear on the end of your nose when you were around the age of 16 years old, and that would hurt like the devil.According to my Norwegian friend, them embarrassing, sore, ugly, perturbances are caused by the venom of snow snakes.Believe it or not, these 6 to 18 inch long snakes that travel just beneath the surface of the snow and that are never seen, do bite.You don’t feel the bite, because you mistake it for the stinging cold of old man winter, and usually just bundle up a little tighter and continue on your way.So, if you feel that stinging, numbing sensation when you are out in the snow, you probably have been bitten by a snow snake.Now, the venom don’t just up and make an immediate appearance, it can lay dormant in your system forever or it can pop up and out whenever. It usually attacks when you least expect it, usually when you are all relaxed and sleeping.
So don’t be surprised, when you wake up in the morning, and find that big ugly pimple hanging off the end of your nose that feels the size of Mt. Rainier, and that is so red and shiny that the light just glares off it and is so sore that it makes you want to cry, not to even mention the embarrassment that you feel.Now, this is when you should realize that you have been bitten by a snow snake according to my Norwegian friend’s grandma.Now, you are wondering why the Scandinavian people have not made the rest of the world aware of this snake and the distress caused by its venom.Well the rest of the world has made up so many jokes about the Norwegian culture that they don’t remember if being a Norwegian is a Nationality or if it’s just a handy excuse.So, they just figured that they would just keep this a secret, and let the world think that it’s just a part of growing up.Now you know why you see certain people turn away from you, and snicker, whenever you have one of these things hanging from your face.Damn snow snakes.
Now thinking and writing about these pustules’ of puss have reminded me of a story that I must relate, at this point of this story.I was working out of Turtle Lake, ND back in the early 1970’s on a survey crew of four people.Greg Tanner a young fellow of about 20 years of age that stood a little over 6 ft. tall and weighed in at 250 lbs. had arrived at work this one morning with one of them huge perturbances sitting on the very tip of his nose.It was so huge that it looked like Mt. Kilimanjaro.As I drove the suburban along the operation and maintenance road of the McClusky Canal I would check the rear view mirror.There in the mirror was Greg’s face with that huge mountain of a pimple on the end of his nose.I mean it was so big that there were men at the base of that thing, putting steel snow cleats on their boots and carrying ice picks in their hands, getting ready to climb that monstrosity. I couldn’t help it, I pulled the survey rig over to the edge of the road and I said Greg let’s get out here, and see if we can shoot that zit, on the end of your nose across the canal.I know it was around 120 ft. across that canal to the road on the other side, but with size of that thing, I know we can do it. Greg looked me with a look on his face that said he could kill, and said something sexual.I told him, I wasn’t in the mood.We all laughed as we continued on our survey mission, except for Greg of course who was saying stuff.While the crew felt a little sympathy for Greg.We still had a good laugh at his situation.After all, I think everyone has been there at one time or another, and were glad that it was someone else this time.
Here is the rest of the story.Apparently after you have been bitten, the venom of the snow snake travels around in your system, and can remain dormant for a considerable period of time as some of us in our old age can still get a zit now and then.It always seems to surprise a person when one shows up. They seem to make their appearance at the end of your nose during the night, just prior to some event, where you will be associating with a lot of other people, and usually of the opposite sex.Oh for the embarrassment of it all.
Why does the venom make it appearance during the night, while a person is sleeping, and why does it have to usually appear at the end of one’s nose? Well, according to my Norwegian friend’s grandmother, its venom affects everyone, but attacks teenagers in a more severe way.She continued to say that, apparently the body has to be in a relaxed, horizontal position, and then the venom travels to the highest elevation on a person’s body.Which is usually, the end of the nose?
There at the end of your nose, while you sleep, the venom and the white corpuscles of your immune system do battle. The battle ground at the end of your nose becomes sore and festers due to this huge fight taking place just beneath the skin.Your immune system wins and when you awake in the morning.All that remains from the huge battle that took place is the battle field, with the annihilated pussy enemy pushed to the very top of the perturbance at the end of your nose. Oh no!Snow capped Mt. Rainier hanging off the end of your face.How will you ever be able to face people today?Anyway, you force yourself up and out of bed, hoping and praying that the pimple don’t look as bad as it feels.But the glare from the light shining on it is almost blinding and you can’t forget about it.It won’t let you.You seem to automatically reach for it and to continue to rub your finger over the perturbance at the end of your nose.
You slowly make your way to the bathroom mirror to see how bad it really is.It looks huge.It feels so sore.This is terrible.I’m supposed get up in front of the whole class and give a speech today.I know what they are going to be looking at.This is going to be terrible.I’m going to be embarrassed, I’m already embarrassed.That huge ugly thing on my nose, looking back at me from the mirror is brilliantly red, it’s huge, and its white capped, with just the very tip being close to some kind of terrible yellow color. Then with one quick squeeze, there is pus all over the bathroom mirror. Amazing, it almost exploded by itself.There is blood running down the end of your nose.It looked worse than Mount St. Helen’s spewing out red hot lava.Then there’s that yellowish white stuff that shot out from the end of the pimple, sticking all over the mirror. That mess couldn’t have come out your body. You can’t bring yourself to look at it or to clean it off the mirror. Poor mom.
According to my Norwegian friend there is a way to prevent that big pimple from appearing at the end of your nose.His Norwegian grandma explained, yes the venom does travel to the part of your body that is the highest in elevation, and what the Norwegians discovered is that if you can keep your hands up higher than the rest of your body while you sleep, that the venom would just travel to the highest point, which would be your fingernails, and turn them red.This was actually a desired effect that most girls liked.Saved on buying and applying polish.So, after Grandma explained this to the girls they began tying their hands to the headboard of their beds and sleeping this way.This really worked to solve the girl’s problem with pimples and also eliminated applying polish to their nails.The only time tying your hands to the headboard of you bed became a liability for the girls are when the boy cousins decided to spend the night.This problem with the boy cousins usually was handled by girl’s dad with the aid of a razor strap or a shotgun.
My Norwegian friend Jim, from Minnesota did travel to Rolette County of North Dakota in the dead of winter.He did travel up to the summit of Butte St, Paul.He said the going was tough, there were no open trails, the snow was deep, and the wind never quit blowing.It looked like the North Pole or the South Pole?One of them poles.It was desolate windy and cold.He was glad that he had packed them two one pint bottles of Schnapps in his back pack for the trip, as he trudged along through the knee deep snow.He had to leave his four wheel drive vehicle back on the main road as the gravel county road and the trail leading to the base of the Butte were blocked with snow. He trudged along in his goose down parka, his carhartt coveralls, with layers of wool clothing underneath, and his snow packs on his feet.He was definitely glad that he had dressed for the occasion, as he intended to spend the night on the summit, of the Butte.
When he reached the summit, he finally took time to stand and survey his surroundings.There was snow, cold, and wind everywhere, and in every direction.He thought what a damn fool he was, as he could die out here and no one would find him until the snow melted. This was definitely a desolate place and an ideal place to watch for and study and maybe even capture the phenomena of snow donuts and the existence of snow snakes on film.He was on a mission to prove the existence of these two phenomena to everyone and to vindicate his Grandmother.He wanted everyone to know, that she just didn’t consume a bad batch of Lutefisk, and was hallucinating.
He took the back pack from his back and sat down on the north side of the monument of stone that had been erected at the summit of the Butte by a previous generation.The stone monument stopped the wind from hitting him directly and it felt good. He looked about the area, studying the snow covered barren landscape around him, then looking down the slope at the trees and the long shadows that they were casting on the snow.All was quiet, and not a creature was stirring not even a wood tick.Nothing was moving except for the powdery snow blown up into the air by the wind at the crest of the snow drifts. There was nothing to do but wait for darkness to envelope the area.
He knew from his Grandmas stories that the snow snakes would not make their appearance until the dead of night, when all was still.He reached into his back pack and removed the two bottles of schnapps.He wasn’t about to carry them all the way back to the vehicle.He tipped the bottle up to his mouth and took a good long pull on the contents.It felt warm going down and it felt like he had lit a small furnace in his belly.He was glad that he had picked up the 80 proof schnapps at the liquor store.
Night was approaching, it was freezing cold, but he was comfortable.He laid back his head, tucked inside that goose down parka hood, against the monument.The warmth of the schnapps and the long hard slog up the butte must have caused him to fall asleep as he awoke with a start.He fumbled with his sleeve as he was anxious to see what time it was. The illuminated wrist watch showed it was near midnight. The wind had quit blowing.It was as still as still could be.The snow glistened in the moon light, like diamonds poured over a pure white sheet. It was eerily quiet. Then all of a sudden there was a crash below him as something had smashed into the trees.
He turned to look around and saw huge chunks of snow breaking off from the huge drift at the summit of the Butte.To his amazement as the chunks of snow became round and larger as they descended down the slope, they also picked up speed.Then it happened the center fell from the ball, and he beheld his first snow doughnut. He was thrilled as he tore off his wool lined leather mittens and reached to get the camera from its container.He was worried that it would not happen again, and was cursing himself for not being ready.He got the camera ready, and as he continued to stare at the huge snow drift at the summit, waiting, and hoping, and praying, that more chunks of snow would break off and begin rolling down the butte.
He was about to give up and sit down and take another swallow or two out of that schnapps bottle when it happened.A huge chunk of snow broke away from the drift and begins to roll.He had his camera at the ready with 400sp 35mm film capturing every movement, as the ball of snow descended the slope, and broke into a snow doughnut.He was thrilled. He couldn’t believe his eyes. Not only was he getting pictures of the snow donut he was actually getting pictures of the snow snakes.He said it was unbelievable.It seems as the snow ball rolled down the hill, it created enough disruption in the snow pack, and created enough excitement among the snakes that they were actually making an appearance on the surface of the snow, in the shadows of the snowball.
The bright moonlight would shine and flicker off the bright white skins of the snow snakes.He knew his camera was picking up the snow doughnuts and the snow snakes at the same time and that he would have photos of both subjects in the same shot.He would after all have proof of what he and his Grandmother had been talking about for years. They could dispel all the doubters once and for all. This trip was going to be worth all the time, and trouble.
He couldn’t wait for morning to come, so he could get out of there and get his film developed.He spent the remainder of the night in wonderment and awe at the sights he had saw and captured on film, at the summit of Butte St. Paul, North Dakota. The stars in the sky seemed to dance in agreement with his thoughts as he enjoyed the schnapps in the cold and peaceful surroundings of the Butte. This trip and these pictures were proof, that he was right, and would be the end of everyone doubting him and his stories.
Finally, when the sun arose in the morning and turned the sky blue, Jim trudged down from the Butte. The closer he got to his vehicle the more excited he got.He was so excited, that he drove straight back to his home in Minnesota, with only one pit stop in Jamestown, ND.He flew into the house, grabbed his wife and gave her a hug and stated that he finally had proof, and that he could prove to her the existence of snow snakes. His wife, who happened to be of Swedish decent gave him that look of “here we go again”. She would often laugh after he related one of his stories about snow snakes and dismiss him, by calling him a round head. Jim was going to bring all her doubts to an end. He had pictures, of not only snow snakes, but of snow doughnuts.He was opening his camera to get the film out, and talking to his wife, and explaining, the whole exciting trip, to her, when he noticed there was no film in the camera.He looked at his wife with a stupendous wide eyed look on his face.His wife looked at him and said, you round head.
Here is the comment from my Norwegian friend, Jim
that you may want to attach.
I’m still trying to capture one of those rare snow snakes on film, but they are very elusive, once in awhile I tell Connie that I think I seen one, but she still doesn’t believe me. One of these days I need to tell the grandkids to keep an eye out for them. We finally got a couple inches of snow on the ground, so I will have to remind them. Larry thanks for reminding me of them. I will pass it on. Only thing wrong with the story is I was in North Dakota not Minnesota at that time. I think I need some peppermint schnapps. Have a good one. Jim.
Thanks for the comments’
I’m forwarding the story to my kids and friends as they too, should know about the elusive snow snakes.
They are a tough one to nail down, but I think if we get the message out there,
and get it out more often, the snow snake could become a state symbol or something, and everyone
would owe you the respect, you deserve? I better quit while I’m ahead
and have another pull from this bottle of schnapps.
You and yours have a good day and a Happy New Year,