20 October 2004

Ready For Winter? NOT!

Last night, we got a foot of snow. I have lived in snow country for a quarter-century and know all about snow. Nothing could surprise me, and I am always ready for it, right? WRONG!

Mrs. G. got me up at seven. I figured I would have to go out and clear the snow off her car so she could go to work at the 'numbers mine'. Nothing unusual about that.

What was a little unusual is that it was very quiet. As the fog of sleep rose from my brain, I noticed that the TV news was not on, and that it was unusually dark in the house. When I stumbled to the living room, I noticed an array of battery-powered appliances in play. Lanterns and a portable radio. The radio was issuing warning of chain controls and road and school closures. The power was off. The wife poured me a cup of hot coffee out of a thermos. Thank God the power outage held off until the coffee was ready! And that Mrs. G., experienced mountain woman that she is, had the acumen to decant it to keep it warm. We've done this before.

I cleared a path to the pickup and pushed and pulled the snow off it with my 'Sno-Ho'. That's a gadget, not the hired help. Finished it up nice and neat with a snow brush.

Then my attention turned to the driveway. I poured fresh gas into my snowblower and plugged it in. It wouldn't start. Duh. It wouldn't start with the rope either, no doubt because I haven't run it all summer. Who does? I figured Mrs. G. could back down the driveway OK and I would clear it later.

The type of snow we had last night is called locally 'Sierra Cement'. It has an exceptionally high water content and weighs about fifty pounds a shovelful. Awful stuff, not the nice light powder seen in ski hill ads. It happens when it's just barely cold enough to snow (about 37 degrees F.).

Well, the pickup's tires wouldn't cut through the snow, but rather packed it up under the tires and rode up on it 'til it hit a soft spot and then sank in it. Mrs. G. put it in low range and punched it (on my advice, of course). The truck went about two feet backwards and then turned almost sideways in the driveway and stopped. She went in and called work to tell them she'd be late and I went for my trusty cordless snowthrower, aka snow shovel. It didn't take me long to clear the snow away from all four tires and a little patch (to gain momentum) behind it. By this time the power company guys were here and parked right across my driveway, so I tracked them down and asked them to move their truck, which they did. They owed me. They had to borrow MY ladder to see if I had voltage to my house so maybe it would be my fault the power was off all over the neighborhood and they wouldn't have to climb any poles. This time, I backed the truck out. 'Bye, honey, see ya later.

The wife was on her way and the power guys had found the problem a couple of doors away. They were up a pole in their cherry picker about 200 feet up, I say again, up, my neighbor's driveway. Bad fuse in a transformer.

I noticed my neighbor, Toni (short for Antoinette, not an Italian poufter boy), blocking the street with her Land Cruiser so I sauntered over to see if I could help. Dig one out, dig two out, what's the diff? The street had been packed down real good by traffic and was real slippery. I was a-slippin' an' a-slidin' but I finally made it over to her rig just as her idiot kid got out and put the other front hub in. Just as she pulled away, she told me that her aspen tree was bent over the power lines behind her house and would I tell the power guys. Sure, I would. So I schlepped up my neighbor's driveway, two steps forward and one step back on the packed snow, and told them. Then I damn near slid all the way back to the street on the snow that had been packed down by their big truck. It was fast, 'tho.

The power came on shortly and I made more coffee, re-educated all my appliances as to what time it was, fired up the 'puter and here I am. I still have to do the driveway and the plow just went by so I also have a nice berm in my driveway to remove. This kind of snow is so heavy that an 8hp machine will only blow it about three feet and won't even touch a berm, so I'll be well re-acquainted with my 'idiot stick', aka snow shovel, by the time I'm done. It's still snowing, too.

They say the Inuit people have 50 words for snow. So do I, and 49 of them aren't very nice.

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