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How The World Wags

By Dave Kiffer

November 13, 2005

Ketchikan, Alaska - My four year old asked me an unanswerable question last week.

It had nothing to do with where babies come from or what happens after a person dies.

"Daddy," he said, as we drove through the soggy streets of Our Fair Salmon City. "Why do we live where it always rains?"

He has been thinking about rain here since we got back from a visit to his grandfather in New Mexico a few weeks ago. Granted, he thought it was pretty darn hot in the Southwest and complained about that just a wee bit. But it was clear he had had his eyes opened to a life in which you didn't always grab your gore-tex sun bonnet every time you stepped out the door and was very intrigued by it.

jpg splat rain

Rain rain go away
By Tab, The Calgary Sun
Distributed to subscribers by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

"Does it always rain here?" he asked after a few seconds of silence.

I was tempted to say "No, it will probably stop raining sometime before you turn 10" but he's not really good with irony yet.

Finally I answered.

"Do you remember going to the beach this summer?"

He nodded.

"Was it raining then?"

He shook his head, but not with a lot of certainty. I decided to deflect his concerns.

"It will stop raining after two sleeps," I said. He smiled.

And it did. We got up two mornings later and there was a couple of inches of wet slushy snow on the deck. We went outside and had our first official snowball fight of the season.

For the record, I have lived elsewhere. I have lived places where it didn't rain all the time. I have lived places where it hardly rained at all. Once I lived in a place (Southern California) where they got 12 inches of rain one January and the newspapers started repeating Noah's Ark jokes.

I have lived places where the snow was light and fluffy like down stuffing. In fact, I have lived in a place where it was so dry (Wyoming) that it was hard to get the snow to even pack together into a decent snowball. One early October snowfall led to a snowball fight in our work parking lot that was somewhat akin to tossing handfuls of flour at each other. It was most unsatisfying.

It was not unsatisfying to toss a wet, slushy snowball toward my son last week and have it land with a loud, resounding "splat" on the deck railing. After we got tired of lobbing slush balls at each other, we started tossing them off the deck onto Pine Street far below.

"Splat. Splat. Splat. Splat"

It was a quiet morning (snow tends to dampen everything here) and the "Splats" echoed almost like gunfire. A neighbor opened her door and looked out suspiciously. She saw us launching our slush bombs onto the roadway, waved, and ducked back into her house.

"What is snow, Daddy?"

I tried to explain that it was more or less frozen rain, but then he asked how come it wasn't like ice. I couldn't think of a non-meteorological answer. Then he asked about hail and I didn't do a very good job of answering.

"Daddy," he said finally, clearly peeved at my lack of clarity. "I want to go to Grandpa's house again. I want to go after sleeps."

I explained that it would be many, many sleeps before we would go to grandpa's house. He asked it if every snowed at Grandpa's house and I said that it did sometimes. He asked if it ever rained there and I said hardly ever.

He pondered this information as he continued to form slush balls and lob them off the deck.

"I want to go where there is snow and no rain." he said after a while.

"How about Antarctica," I offered without thinking.

"Where is Ankarktika," he said, drawing the syllables out as if he wasn't sure he had heard right.

"South of here," I answered.

"Down south by Grandpa's?"


"I want to go there," he said with great enthusiasm.

I changed the subject to the little birds that were chasing the seeds we had left on the other side of the deck. Luckily, I had escaped having to answer an unanswerable question: Why we lived in such a dreary, wet, decidedly un young child friendly place.

After a few minutes, my son's mittens were soaked through and we went back inside. I had to spend a few minutes rubbing his hands to warm them up.

"Daddy," he said. "Why do we live somewhere that it is soooo cooooolllllld?"


Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2005

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