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'Best igloo I have ever seen'

Cool grandparents make the best out of snowy winter

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 7:31 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 7:55 p.m. CDT
(Kimberly Watley/Special to SVM)
Wayne and Deb Larson of Harmon warm themselves by the fireplace inside of a snow cave on their property. The igloo also features a door flap, a chimney for ventilation and a sunroof.
(Kimberly Watley/Special to SVM)
Wayne Larson lays out a rug for his wife, Deb, to crawl over as she enters the snow cave they built in their yard. Taking advantage of a nearly 6-foot snowdrift, Wayne worked for 8 hours digging out what they have dubbed “Country Igloo” in an effort to drive away winter doldrums.

HARMON — Wayne and Deb Larson have a little case of cabin fever. But they aren’t letting winter doldrums get the best of them.

Late Friday night, the couple decided to use the drifting snow in their yard to their advantage. They built an igloo.

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By daybreak Saturday, Wayne was scraping the last of the excess snow out of the entrance.

It took roughly 8 hours to dig out a perfect snow cave, complete with a fireplace, in the nearly 6-foot drift.

Wayne, 49, blames Deb, 48, for the idea. Deb blames their 11-year-old grandson, Gabe Hackman. After several days off of school, because of the cold, Gabe was going through a little cabin fever of his own.

He lives in southern Illinois and challenged his grandparents to a fort-off, of sorts. They would compare photos over the Internet to see who did the best job.

Gabe didn’t get enough snow to make one of his own, but that didn’t stop his grandparents from holding up their end of the deal.

While Wayne dug out wheelbarrows of snow, Deb sat in a director’s chair, at what would ultimately become the igloo entrance, guiding him.

“She was also my emergency contact, in case it caved in on me,” he said.

Laughing, she added, “And I was the supervisor.”

“Yeah, she wanted me to carve a fireplace, shelves with knickknacks and doodads, hang curtains,” he joked.

The playful couple is notorious in their family for always making time to have fun, especially when it comes time for their grandchildren to visit.

“If the weather is bad and the kids are here, we’ll just camp out in the living room,” Deb said. “Last time, we put a full-size, five-man tent up. We had a bubble party in there, played the piano, danced and had a good time.”

Bedtime rules go out the window, too, they admitted.

“We were having popsicles and hot chocolate at 11 that night.”

When Gabe, who lived with the Larsons for a year while his mom, Ashley Kauffman, was stationed in Afghanistan, saw a picture of the igloo, he said, “That is the best igloo I have ever seen in my whole life!”

Because they live more than 3 hours away, visiting isn’t an option right now. Deb took video for her grandson so he could feel like he was there.

“My kids love going there," Kauffman said. "Mom and Wayne are always doing something crazy and fun. It’s never anything but crazy big adventures."

“When they come to Grandma and Papa’s, they don’t look at the TV or video games," Wayne said. "We spend most of our time outside.”

When the temperature warms up and the snow melts, they will bring the grandkids out for what they call a Hilly Billy Roundup.

A few years ago, Wayne began building a waterslide. He started with seven Slip ‘N Slides that he fastened together. But being a “go-big-or-go-home” kind of a guy, Wayne each year has added to what now is a mega water slide.

“It’s really more of a bubble slide,” Deb said, laughing. “You put a little soap on your butt and woo! He cut big barrels in half, used lumber and pallets, and now it’s a 150-foot slide.”

With child-like excitement, Wayne said, “Oh, I’ll probably make it bigger for next year.”

Gabe said he hopes he and his sister, Charlie Mae, who is 18 months old, get a chance to visit before the igloo melts. If they don’t, his grandparents say, it’s OK because there is always another “crazy big adventure” waiting for them when they can.

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