March 4

Posted on: March 4, 2013

I woke at my usual 7am, confirming with a glance at the battery clock.  I wondered how long batteries would last before I had to dig out the Big Ben wind-up clock from the drawer; being the light sleeper I am, I wasn’t looking forward to that day, as the tick-tick-ticking always disturbed me.  From electric to batteries to manual, all in one easy step: a disaster, coming to a town near you.  All this flitted thru my mind as I reached for my robe.  Tying the sash, I smiled at the still sleeping John, and tip toed out of the bedroom.

I knocked down the ashes in the cook-stove and restarted the fire, while a pot of water heated on the gas range, manually lit.  From this point on, any flame needed for the day will be taken from the cook-stove to preserve the limited supply of matches; I had thousands, yes, but if I couldn’t restock, it made them limited.  I made coffee with the French press, and transferred the steamy dark liquid to a different pot to set on the stove to stay warm.  We may make more, maybe not, this was only two cups each and we were used to more.  I poured myself a cup just as a sleepy John came down the hall.  I handed him my cup, but he set it down on the table, and pulled me into a hug, nuzzling his sleepy face into my neck.  Ah, this was the warm gentle hug like we would share after his massages on Eagle Beach; hugs that always seemed to have an underlying, unspoken hunger.  It seemed like a hundred years ago.  He pulled back without letting go and kissed me.  So many times I had yearned for that kiss in the past.  I returned his kiss, deepening it with a sigh.  The desire quickly grew, and without a word, we went back to the bedroom.


A half an hour later, I rolled toward the warmth of John, “I think your coffee is getting cold.”  He just laughed, gave me a quick kiss, and we both got up and dressed for the day.


John poured us both a fresh cup of coffee, and then dumped his cold cup back into the pot to reheat; we no longer wasted anything.  I set the griddle on the hot stove to fix toast, and started slicing bread as he opened the blinds on the glass door.  Years ago I had Jason install the cell-style blinds on all the windows and the glass door; the cell forms an air barrier against the glass, keeping the hot air out in the summer, and the cold out in the winter.  It was one of the most energy efficient things I’ve done for the house.  Closing them at night is a must when it’s so cold out.

“Houston, I think we have a problem,” he muttered.  Problems we don’t need, not after all we’ve been thru!  I moved to stand beside him, slipping my arm around his waist with my free hand and just stared at the falling snow; I could barely see the barn thru the veil of big, fluffy flakes falling straight down.

“I’ve seen snow like this only once before, back in March of 2002.  It snowed for two days and then the wind blew for another two.  38” brought Marquette County to a standstill,” the memories of that time marched across my mind, and all that happened, some good, some not.  “Come on, we need to plan.”  And we sat down at the table, toast forgotten, until it started to burn.  John turned it while I dug out two pads of paper and a couple of pens.  He was buttering the toast, and had the jam on the table, when I came back from another quick errand: a trip to the cold pantry for batteries and the NOAA alert radio.

“Thank you, Marie,” I said under my breath, as I fed the AA batteries into the radio and turned it on.

In that tinny, computer generated voice, the announcement came: “The National Weather Service in Marquette has issued a Severe Blizzard Warning for the entire Lake Superior coastline of the Upper Peninsula from 6:00am until further notice; from Copper Harbor to Grand Marias to Whitefish Point;  West winds will increase to 20mph and shift to the North by 12:00 noon; winds will shift again to the North Northeast by 6:00pm;  Expect snowfall at the rate of up to 2” or more per hour, with wind gusts up to 50 mph.”  This was followed by the alert blast, and it started to repeat.

I looked at John, “Those North Northeast winds will dump us with Lake Effect Snow. And I have never heard them say a warning was in effect until further notice! Never.”

“Maybe they don’t know how long it will last.” He concluded.

“And that’s what worries me.”

“We’re ok, though, right?” did he seem worried?

“Of course we are!  But there are a few things we have to do, and quickly.”  I smiled, took a sip of coffee, then a bite of toast.  I was starting to like my own jam; John picked wild blueberry this time.  “If this storm lasts a long time, and by the sounds of it, it will, we need to do all we normally would do over the next 4-5 days, in less than a day… today!”  My mind was reeling with lists.

“Okay, tell me what to do,” he had his pen ready to make his own list.

“Water is critical of course.  I’ll need you to gas up the gennie, then refill the three five-gallon gas cans; one of them will go to Jason’s, depending on what Tom had left for gas, which I don’t think was much.  After you do that, get the gennie going and fill the four five-gallon water containers, and the four big cooking pots out in the small shed.  That should give us enough for several days.”  He just nodded and jotted things down.  “Once the water jugs are full, we’ll need to do all the laundry.”  My mind was racing.  “And flush both toilets and keep them flushed while the gennie is on.”

“The chickens will need tending,” John added.  “I’ll fill their water full, and the feeder.  Will that last them a couple of days?”

“Yes, it should, thank you.”

“I’ll bring in extra wood and kindling, too.  There’s room behind the stove for 3-4 days.”  He said half to himself.  I could see he was understanding the urgency.

“I’m going to start a double batch of bread, then go to the office while it’s rising.  The boys will need both loaves and I’ll make ours later.”  I know how much John loves the fresh bread.

“Why are you risking going into town?” He frowned at the idea.

“Tomorrow is Food Bank day.  I’m going to get ours early and make sure Darlene knows about the storm.  I’ll get the boy’s share and Bobby’s too.”  I could see his frown persisted.  “Don’t worry, it looks about six inches out there.  My car can handle it no problem.  I won’t be gone but a half hour.  I promise.”

While I put the bread together and spent the ten minutes kneading it, we continued to talk, and John took all the notes.

“We’ll need the snowshoes from the barn; they can stay in the pantry out of the way until we need them.  Oh, and I might as well pre-grind some more wheat while the gennie is running all day; so the big electric grinder will have to come in from the shed too, but it can wait until I come back.”  I covered the bowl full of dough with a cloth and set it near the stove to rise.  What else? What else? What am I missing? What am I forgetting?


The snow was deeper than 6” once I got out onto the main road, but I could see the plow coming in my direction.  I pulled over and stopped, waiting until it was past; I wouldn’t be able to see a thing in the cloud of snow it was kicking up anyway.  It was hard enough to see thru the falling snow.


“I didn’t expect to see you here, Deborah,” Darlene was already in the conference room, filling food boxes, while several people waited.  I smiled at the few who had thought enough ahead to get their food early.

“I’m thinking like these folks and picking up early,” I helped Darlene fill the last of the boxes, and soon the room was empty except for us.  That’s when I told her I needed four boxes for two people.  She raised her eyebrows, but when I explained who I was picking up for, she just nodded and pulled out more boxes.

“I managed to get a NOAA report this morning, Darlene,” I was trying hard to impress how grave this could be.  “We’re under a Blizzard warning, no totals predicted, and NO time when it might end.  I’ve never heard of that.”

“I heard it too.  It has me worried, but the town has come thru everything that has been thrown at it so far, I’ve confidence we’ll get thru this, too.”  She had a positive attitude as she helped me load the four boxes in my car.  “Just try not to give into the temptation of going across the road to see your boys while it’s still snowing; you just might get lost!” She paused for a moment.  “It’s been said you can lose your way in ten feet during a bad blizzard.”  And I instantly knew what I’d been forgetting!  I stopped at Fram’s before heading home, and caught him as he was locking the doors to go home to ride out the storm.

“Joe!  I’ll only be a minute.” I headed back to the hardware department, past all the empty food shelves that stood like sentinels and reminders of more prosperous days.  Thankfully I found what I needed and was back at the counter in two minutes.

He looked at my purchase with questioning eyes.  “I’ll put those on your tab.  Now get out of here and go straight home!”

3 thoughts on “March 4

  1. I’m thinking so a very long rope? Remembering reading of blizzards in the Little House books where stringing up ropes from house to barn meant saving the lives of those going back and forth! Wasn’t just the LHOTP books, it was any book from that time period when a person’s life depended on foresight.
    For me, nag that I am, I would insist that everyone come back under the same roof for the duration of the storm.
    However, “Deborah”, both fictional and real, is wiser, and able to let other’s make their own choices.

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