Friday, January 14, 2011
World of White
I grew up on the outskirts of Chicago, so I know about snow. I still have a snapshot of my dad, who was 6’1”, standing on our patio in a snow tunnel that is a foot taller than his head. My parents hated snow and eventually moved to Florida, where they sat by the pool each winter and teased their friends and relatives who were still stuck in the Midwest. I didn’t get it. I loved the snow, especially building snowmen and igloos. sledding and skating on an ice rink that we made in our backyard. One of the things that I missed when I lived in California was “real winter”.
So, here I am now, dragging hay through snow tunnels above my waist, dealing with the biggest snowfall that our town has had in 20 years. I’m still vividly remembering how it felt on Wednesday morning as I crawled out to the barn to reach the horses in the heart of the storm. I was smart enough to bring their hay and breakfast into the house the night before so I wouldn’t have to get to the garage and tack room before I beat my way towards the barn. I was wearing knee high rubber boots, waterproof pants and a Gortex parka, but I was sinking into drifts that were almost to my shoulders. My method was to shovel two or three feet to make a path, turn back and move the bucket full of hay, wipe the fog and snow off my glasses and then shovel a little more. It was very slow going. There was a moment where I couldn’t see the barn or the house. I felt like Nanook of the North.
To make matters worse, I was still worrying about something that I saw the night before. As I was putting the horses to bed, I noticed that in the snow in the corral, one of them had peed and it was a kind of carrot orange color. It freaked me out, so I went back into the house and leaped on the Internet to see if anyone had anything to say about the this weird colored urine. I was thinking urinary tract infection. There were a few articles about it, mentioning dehydration as a possible explanation and claiming there was no cause for alarm. Both horses were eating and pooping and drinking normally. Just to be sure, I had checked on them around 10 pm as the storm was just starting the night before. They were both fine.
Now, as I approached the barn, Silk stuck her head out but I didn’t see Siete. My little horse always pokes her head over the stall door the minute that I come out of the house each morning. I’d been shoveling and inching my way to the barn for over an hour, and there was no sign of her. It made me panic. Frantically pushing in the blinding snow, my mind went to the worst. If she was down or had colicked, how would I get help? My fear enabled me to reach the corral gate with a surge of energy like a mother animal trying to protect her young. As I shoved against the gate to squeeze through it, the little stinker ambled across her stall to the door, giving me a look that said, “What took you so long?” Tossing the hay into the barn, I felt the rush of victory while the path that I had just carved was disappearing in the insane onslaught of white from the sky.
I barely made it back to the house. Once it stopped snowing, my husband, my daughter and I spent at least eight hours digging. We had to pull 30 inches of snow off the roof of the barn because we were worried it would collapse. Silk ran into the corral when I got the doors open,and the snow was covering her up over her back. She stood still, not knowing what to do. “Don’t expect me to come and rescue you!” I told her. Eventually, she got up the nerve to push her way out and hid herself back in the barn. After two days, we still haven’t been able to dig open the gates to the pasture, and the snow out there has drifted about four feet deep. I’m trying to figure out how to exercise the horses as they grow more antsy and pent-up.
All the local stores are sold out of snowblowers. Our tractor, which has a plow is still broken. My husband has contacted his buddy, an old retired mechanic known around here as “Tractor Man”, who collects and repairs lawn equipment. He has an old Craftsman with treads that he refers to as “the beast”. He’s almost got it running, so I hope that soon we’ll be able to blast a small runway from the corral into the pasture. I have to admit that I’m beginning to understand how my parents felt after they lived through 36 winters with snow like this.
All of you in parts of the country where the temperatures are above 60 degrees can go ahead and gloat now.