Saturday, December 26, 2009




Prayers for a white Christmas were answered and then some! It's always been rather disheartening when it's Christmas time and the AC is on...this year was diametrically opposed to the ordinary.

On Christmas Eve Day, we awoke to a blinding blizzard. Ya' know, the ones that you see on the National Geographic channel, when they do a segment on the northern American tundra?? Well, the tundra came to Vernon, Texas!VIEW FROM THE FRONT DOOR......



As the morning progressed, newsflashes scrolled across the TV screen, warning people to stay at home and not get on the roads...that was all well and good, but I had to get to Wal-mart to finish getting foodstuffs for the family Christmas dinner that was 24 hours away...I am so NOT a planner when it comes to that...always last minute...At 10:00, I ran out into the blizzard to start the truck. It was the kind of run that you have to "talk yourself into" when it's pouring rain and you have parked your car at the furthest possible parking spot. The winds were being clocked at 60mph and visibility was only 10 feet. I shielded my face from the driving sleet that was pinging off of my cheeks and eyelids...I could have used a pair of Inuit goggles so I wouldn't have to watch the ground passing by as I tucked and ran. Once I was in the truck, an alarming feeling filled my of those "told you so" feelings...I decided that I had better stay put...I shut the pick-up down and again threw myself out into the blizzard. Half way to the house, I told myself that later in the day when the temps drop and there's even more snow, there certainly wouldn't be a chance to try it then, so I whipped around, and running and stumbling back to the pick-up I went!

Leaving the driveway, only able to see a body's length in front of the hood, I gripped the wheel, pushed the "wheel traction" button, and cranked it into 4 high. The road was absent. I could basically tell where the road was by gauging the distance from the truck to the telephone poles that stood at frozen attention along the road. Snow was starting to drift on the upwind side of the trees and ditches. Slowly, I made it out to the highway. It was then that I realized that I should really try to turn around and get back home. I couldn't see lights from oncoming traffic, no telephone poles, no road, just blinding snow in all directions. Finally, after several hesitating attempts to get out on the highway, I gassed it. I inched along, meeting more vehicles the closer to town I got. Once I dropped down off the plain into the river valley, the wind and driving snow seemed to slow some. The roads in town weren't much better. I immediately thought about growing up in Western Massachusetts and how all the town's plows would be out, plowing and sanding the roads...Vernon doesn't own any was everyone at their own risk. I just made it to the post office and bank before they shut down at noon...then it was off to Wal-mart. I could see trucks and cars pulled off on the edge of the interstate, so I just stuck to the feeder road. Wal-mart was packed! Not a parking spot for miles, it seemed. The wheels of the buggies were frozen stiff, so you basically just provided some propulsion from the rear and the cart slid across the slick tiles in the store. Once my list was halfway checked off, the wheels seemed to unlock and resume normal operation. It sure made turning easier. The lines were long, but the strangest thing...people were laughing, hugging and visiting while Christmas music filled the air.

The trip home was mostly uneventful, even though I had to redesign my route due to stuck and abandoned cars along the feeder road back to the east. I was very thankful that I had 4WD. Back to the highway heading north, I didn't grip the wheel with such white knuckles as before. I carefully turned off the highway onto our county road and made it about a mile. There was no depth perception - everything was white and blinding...then it happened...even though I was pretty sure that I was still on the road, I drove the truck into an enormous drift. The snow was so deep that I couldn't open the door. I sat for a moment, smiled, said Merry Christmas to myself and decided to break down and call Dyke. After 2 rings, he answered. He was only a half mile up the road from me, trying to pull Jake out of a drift. "Ok, I'll be there shortly", he said. After about 10 minutes, I could see lights coming toward me, but there was no way he was going to be able to get close enough to tie a tow rope. The snow was way too deep! After that fleeting thought, off he went into the bar ditch...deeper than I was. I sat still and waited for the phone to ring, but it was just white and silent. I didn't even have my camera to document this crazy adventure! To spare you the near 4 hour account... The sun began dipping lower and lower in the sky... Several attempts to free me, proved unsuccessful...By that time, Zack, who had been riding in Jake's pick-up, had joined me in my truck. We laughed and sang Christmas songs along with the radio! It was close to 90 degrees in the pick-up. My wet sock-feet were propped up on the dash while we had a true mother/son bonding time! Since it was going to be a while, Dyke's advice was to put the groceries in the snow while we were waiting for him to return with the tractor. So, I heaved the door open,shoving it multiple times with my shoulder. It was against the snow drift. I could only open it enough to get the grocery sacks out and plopped them out in the snow right next to the truck. I was worried that the eggs would freeze and my beer would bust, but they didn't and I was glad that I said "plastic" instead of "paper". While Dyke and Jake headed home to get the tractor, I knew it would be a while until they returned, so I cracked open a beer, Zack opened a root beer and we cut into some sharp cheddar cheese and had a little party! It was the same knife that I had castrated with, but we were hungry and after a few swipes on my jeans it seemed to be clean enough. After a couple of cold ones, we could see the orange tractor approaching in the distance. I opened the truck door and didn't see any of my grocery sacks! They had all been covered over with snow, so I had to dig for them! Finally after several attempts and lots of snow being pushed out of the way with the front-end loader, I was able to be towed out of the drift. It was after 4pm. Our farmer showed up with his tractor, and with 2 tractors pulling, Dyke was able to get unstuck too. I headed home to put up the groceries and after another hour, everyone else was back home safely.Pictures taken the next morning.....

The North Creek....

Christmas morning was wonderful...and quiet....The boys had to be awakened at 10:00! Quite the difference from when they were young bucks and up at the crack of dawn.

This year's tree - turkey feathers, raffia, rope, bandanna ties and silver/red ball ornaments....

Santa's loot!


All major roads and highways were closed due to the severe conditions, so Dyke's family was not able to get here. We were snowed in. I still got up at 4:30 am to put the turkey in. The meal was great and plentiful, but we missed having our family here.

After the round of opening presents, the meal and some horizontal digesting time,everyone went about their ways and I was home alone, so I decided to take Big Boy, my new gelding, for a ride over the hill to Chris and Cristi's house.

I got Big Boy a week or so ago from a cowboy friend who used to work for the Waggoner Ranch and now trains colts and runs cattle for himself. Big Boy is a 6 year old sorrel, 15 hand gelding with a blaze and a sock. He had been cowboyed off of his whole life and only knew the hard, fast life of a cowhorse. He needs about 300 pounds put on him, but has a solid bone structure, a gentle eye and a very sweet disposition. I had him vet checked and she said he was a good 'un.

Anyway...on a crow's back, the journey I was about to embark on was about 3 miles. I set out across the frozen fields to the south. The only sound was that of his hooves on the crunchy snow, the creak of the saddle and the slight breeze blowing the fringe on my gloves. It was 34 degrees. The sky was an amazing azure turquoise-blue. We skirted the fields until we could get on the road safely. The bar ditches were probably neck deep on me or maybe even more. I knew I didn't want to get off in that. We traveled south for a good 30 minutes, enjoying the crispness of the air, the quiet of the winter day and the clip-clop of his new shoes on the county road.

Talk about impassible roads.....


As we traveled, I felt a strong spiritual connection with the land, the sky, and the silent, cold surroundings. It was one of those deep soul touching feelings. I have always loved to reminisce about the past, conjuring up images and pretending to a part of what life was like 150 years ago. I have an intense fascination for the west, the cowboy/pioneer life and the wild places where the ancient Indians roamed. The entirety of it all was the embodiment of the true American spirit. It was cold, and I could have been curled up in a warm quilt on the couch scanning through the channels, but this was where I wanted to be. This is where I needed to be.We passed several herds of cattle trying to scratch a meager existence from the frozen plains.
As we continued down the road to the south... at least it looked like we were on the road...Big Boy somehow slipped off into the snow filled ditch. (I know you can't tell by looking at this photo, but it was frickin' deep!)Immediately he sunk to over his chest. His legs were immobile, but he didn't panic at all! He started throwing himself forward to try to get his legs free and with all of that violent rocking, I went off on the left side, hitting the top of the drift with my shoulder. I grabbed my saddlebag that had some spicy crackers and beer in it. It was only about a 10 inch fall, but it was bottomless, so all I could do was lay there next to Big Boy as he tried to free himself. Instantly, I had visions of being trampled, but Big Boy steered clear of me, got himself out and stood on the solid ground looking back for me. The only way I could get out was to log roll over the top of the snow. We were both completely shrouded in snow. Once I was out, I knew that that whole episode could have had a much worse outcome and I thanked God for keeping me safe. Big Boy was in no way spooked, or jittery. I got back on and we continued on our trek. Finally, 2 hours later, we made it to their farm.

I tied Big Boy to the fence and went inside to visit with Chris and Cristi. He just stood patiently and visited with the heifers over the fence.

The sun was on its descent, so I knew I couldn't make it back home in the light, so I made Big Boy comfortable in their barn and left him there until the morning. That night, I got a ride home with Jake. The roads were bad.

The next morning, I got up before 7, woke up the boys for work (they both work at the feed store) and hitched a ride with them back to Cristi's to get Big Boy and ride him home. It was 16 degrees and my boots were still wet from the night before. Cristi was up and invited me in for a hot cup of coffee before we set out. It was good! I saddled up @ 8:30am. The trip home was less than 2 hours, but the low temps were tough to contend with. I had my big rabbit fur hat on, so I just tucked my chin and we were off. At one point, with my head ducked, I missed the cut off that we had taken the day before. Big Boy started to slow down and then just stopped. I nudged him with my frozen spurs, but he didn't budge. I looked up and realized that we had missed the turn off and that Big Boy knew exactly where to go to get home. He followed our tracks from yesterday and we made it home by near death experiences...just cold. My boots had frozen to the stirrups and his chin hairs were like icicles. We were both glad to be home.

The sun was starting to warm things up, and with a good breakfast, we were both doing much better. I was thinking of riding to Montana, but maybe I'll wait until Spring. There were still cattle to feed and other chores like breaking ice, so the animals could get water.




JOB 11:18-19

And thou shalt be secure, because there is hope;yea, thou shalt dig about thee and thou shalt take thy rest in safety. Also thou shalt lie down, and none shall make thee afraid;yea many shall make suit unto thee.

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