March 4 – part 3

Posted on: March 6, 2013

Eric opened the door when he heard us stomping the snow off our boots.  “Mom!  What are you two doing here?  Don’t you know it’s snowing out?”  He could be a real clown when he set his mind to it.

“Very funny.  Would you help John with those boxes, please.”  I kicked off my boots in the kitchen, and removed my snowy hat and gloves, but left my coat on.  We weren’t going to be staying.  I gave Jacob and Emilee hugs, and then turned to Jason.  “Wood supply?”

“As soon as I saw the snow this morning, we started hauling it in,” he assured me.  “This looks really bad, Mom.”  I think he was concerned, to say the least.

“NOAA said a Blizzard, 2” or more per hour, for an unknown length of time,” I didn’t hide my worry from my youngest son; he had to know the severity of this.  “We brought this week’s food rations for the four of you.  I added a case of ramen, a dozen eggs, two jars of canned bacon, and a jar of corned beef.  Oh, and two loaves of bread, still hot.”  Eric and John had joined us in the dining room area.

“We tied ropes as we came across,” John started, “but….”

I finished what he didn’t want to suggest, “But you need to stay here.  Don’t try coming over until the snow stops, which might be days.  It’s bad out there, really bad, and I do not want to worry that you might try taking the kids out in this!”  I looked at both of my sons, sternly, “Promise me!”  I felt better when they both nodded, though Jason spoke up first.

“Mom………….” he sounded exasperated, like he was the parent and I was the child.

PROMISE ME!!” I almost hissed.

Eric stepped in front of his brother.  “We promise, Mom.  We will not come across while the snow is still falling; not unless it is an emergency.” He looked sternly at his younger brother, taking the lead.  Jason nodded, agreeing.

“OK,” I breathed, “Have you pumped water?  How much gas do you have for the gennie?  We only brought five gallons, but it will have to last.”

“There’s one container left.  That gives us ten gallons.  We will make it last, Mom,” Jason looked contrite.

“You’ve still got the FRS radio?  We will be on from 9am until 10am, from noon until one, and again at 5pm until 6pm.  Check in at least once a day, ok?” They agreed.

“Something else,” I handed Eric the remaining 100’ clothesline package. “I want you to run this from the back porch to the wood pile; now; before we leave.  It’s insurance.  We’ll wait.”  Eric looked over at his younger brother.

“Come on, Jay, she’s right…. Besides, they won’t leave until we do this,” he poked Jason in the ribs.  This reminded me of when they were young boys; my boys are now men in their 40’s…. when did that happen?


When they came back in, I said, “Just one more thing,” Jason rolled his eyes.  “I love you both,” and I kissed each on the cheek.  “See you in a few days.”

As we put our boots back on, getting ready to leave, Jason came in with a package. “We were going to bring these for dinner, but you should take yours with you now.” I nodded and just tucked the package in my pocket, giving him one more hug.

I didn’t think the snow could come down any harder, but it did.  The rope was truly a life line as it guided us back across the road; I’m not sure I could even see the compass.  We literally pulled ourselves along until the bird feeder post came into sight, a foot away, the brown house now coming into view.  Once inside, I all but collapsed from exhaustion.  John was tired too; I could see it etched in his face.

“We still have some things that need to be done,” I said as I pulled my list closer to look at, “but I think we need a break, and something to eat.  Shoeing is hard work!” I gave him a wan smile.  “Soup or a sandwich?”

John picked out a jar of tomato soup, and set it to heat, while I made a single cheese sandwich to grill.  We would split both.  It wasn’t good to eat too much and then do the heavy work that lay before us:  the deck needed some shoveling so we could run the generator again, and one last safety-line needed to be run, to the barn.  I would make sure we had a substantial dinner.

“All the laundry is done, Deb, why the gennie?” It was a valid question.

We need showers, John.  We’ve been working and sweating all day,” I glanced at the battery operated wall clock, the one that had housed his Beretta.  It was only 3pm, but with the heavy snow blotting out the sun it looked dark enough to be past dusk.  “It might be days before we can have normal showers.”  Even though I brought in that shower bucket, it was a last resort.  “If you shovel and get the gennie going again, I’ll run the line to the barn.  And don’t give me that look!” I gave him my most confident smile.  “The shoveling is too hard for me, and I’ll not have you do all the heavy work.  Besides, I’ve walked that route in the blackest night; I’ll be done before you.”


We used paper plates for the sandwich, and burned them in the stove. The soup bowls would be washed later.  We both put on light-weight dry clothes, and set to our tasks.  John reluctantly started on the shoveling, while I donned my bright blue, pink and purple ski jacket, hat, gloves and snowshoes to make the short trek to the barn.

I tied one end of the 50’ clothesline to the bird feeder post, aimed myself at the now invisible barn, and started walking.  After a few minutes, I tripped and fell; something had caught on my snowshoe.  It was the orange marker rod I used to mark the first raised bed outside the garden.  Wow, the snow was really deep.  I freed my shoe, and then realized I had dropped the clothesline; the white clothesline; which I now couldn’t find; My heart stuttered.  I was enveloped in a cocoon of furious white flakes, unable to see in any direction.  I had a choice to make.  The orange rod put me four feet from the garden fence, which would lead me to the barn.  However, that still didn’t get me back to the house.  My alternative was to back track quickly, right now, before my trail filled in, get to the feeder post and get the line again.  I opted for going back.  The powder was deep so my trail was easier to follow, but only if I leaned over as I walked so I could see past the falling snow.  Part way back, I found the end of the line I had dropped, but I went all the way back to re-orient myself.  I tied a loop on the free end of the rope and slipped in around my wrist; no more dropping it!

The second try was easier, having already broken the trail part-way.  I was extra cautious when I came to the disturbed area where I had fallen and stepped around the bed marker.  I saw the fence and kept walking, only to be jerked to a halt: I had run out of rope.  I removed the loop from my wrist, and slid it over the end of the first metal fence post.  Following the ten feet of fencing was easy as the huge dark barn loomed over me, once again thankful I had chosen dark brown siding instead of white.  The sliding metal door groaned when I pushed it open; I stepped down into the gloom.  I released the clips on my snowshoes and stepped out of them; the stress of the day caused my muscles to feel rubbery and they momentarily refused to work.  Ignoring that, I used what little light there was to find my way to the shelf where I knew there was more rope: the laundry lines I had taken down a hundred years ago and checked off my winter prep list.  These lines were much shorter, having been cut, but I didn’t need much; just enough to reach the other rope.

After attaching it to the barn door handle, I stretched the new line over to the one hanging on the fence post and knotted them together, putting them both back up on the post, above the snow.


Back in the house, John was running the dryer.  He hadn’t yet showered.

“That took you a long time, get lost?” he grinned, but I knew he had been worried.  His smile turned to a grimace when I told him what happened.  I don’t keep anything from him; he’s not only my mate, he’s my partner, and he deserves my honesty.

“But it’s done and there’s no reason for us to go back out in this storm.  Well, except to turn the gennie off, but I doubt either of us could lose
our way on the deck,”  I tried hard to keep it light, but those few moments of being blinded by the snow, not knowing which way to go, really scared me.  “I’ll fold those clothes while you shower.  Take as much time as you want, it’ll be a few days before the next one!”  I kissed his bald head and got the basket of clothes to fold.


“Oh, that really felt good,” John said as he came out of the bathroom, clean clothes, freshly shaved too.

“Look what I found,” I pulled out the package Jason had given me, “Tenderloin steaks!”  It had been quite a while since we’d had fresh meat; canned meats were good, but just not the same.  “I’m thinking mushroom gravy on basmati rice with the steaks.  Does that appeal to you?” I grinned, knowing it would indeed be a hit.

I showered, and washed my hair, taking my time, letting the hot water just cascade down my back.  Oh, how I missed the hot tub; to submerge myself in steamy water was now a distant memory, such an unreachable luxury.  I wonder if I will ever have it running again.  The thought saddened me, but over the past several months I’d gotten very philosophical about this new life.  We were alive, we had food, we had heat, we had family and each other.  I could and would accept this all willingly, and let the old life go.  I toweled off and put on fresh clothes.  The gennie could run another half hour to finish drying the heavier clothes that had been air-drying near the stove.  It was now 5pm and it looked much, much later.  The snow has so effectively obscured the sun it’s hard to tell dusk from night.


With the generator off, it was so quiet.  Quiet except for the howling winds outside; those 40-50mph gusts had arrived.

The two oil lamps I set on the table, cast a warm glow across our full plates.  Another lamp was near the stove where the rest of the rice and gravy were staying warm, and a fourth lamp on the cook island, shining down the hallway.

Just before we sat down, John set a bottle in the center of the table: wine!

“Where did you find that?” I asked in a whisper, looking at the Earthquake label.

“In the wine rack where I’m guessing you put it,” and he opened it with a flourish.  It was a great touch added to the meal.  Soft light, the warmth of the stove, and the horrendous storm raging outside; it all made me feel cozy and secure.  We toasted to getting done all we did without mishap.

“But I do need to ask….” He trailed off.

“What?” I prompted with a small smile.

“How did you know to run those ropes?  You said this blizzard wasn’t like anything you’d seen before.” He set his wine glass down and cut a piece of meat.

I laughed.  “Believe it or not, I’d seen it in a movie!” I took a forkful of rice and mushrooms, savoring the tastes and the warmth.  “It was set in the 1800’s.  A young wife had been left alone when a blizzard happened.  She tied a rope from the house to the barn to get cow dung to burn.”

“Cow dung?”

“Yes, the husband hadn’t cut enough fire wood before he left and she ran out.  The movie stuck with me.  When I started to burn wood, I made sure I would never run out of firewood.  And although I’ve never had to use the rope thing, it was part of the memory.” I took another sip of the zinfandel, and let it sit on my tongue for a pleasant moment before swallowing.

“Something else I wanted to ask,” he was searching for words. “What will happen to the rope when the plow comes by?”

“They’ll break it.  It’s strong, but not that strong,” I said simply.  “But, by the time the plows come, we won’t need it anymore.” He thought about that for a while.  As an additional treat, we split a jar of canned peaches, some of what I put up two years ago.  We both needed the extra calories.

I washed the dishes quickly in some of the heated water from the stove and left them to air dry.  It brought back memories of my time deep in the woods, pleasant ones this time.  We closed the blinds to the storm outside, added wood to the stove and sat back down at the table.

“Feel like playing domino’s tonight?” We never keep score.


9 thoughts on “March 4 – part 3

  1. What makes this series so good is that it is not just entertaining, but so much is instructive and so much is thought provoking. Keep up the excellent work ! We will keep on reading !

  2. I thought that rope (clothesline) might have something to do with Deborah’s trip to town. Even though I’ve lived in Michigan and in other snowy areas I’ve never been in a situation where ropes were necessary. For anyone new to such areas this could be a life saving bit of information!
    Very interesting entries, true to life, but comforting in that Deborah and her family know what to expect and have prepared in advance for all concerns.
    John is a wonderful character, a good person and a good man!

  3. Well, the UP is vastly different than FL, yes, and they’ve had a mega dose of the winters possible, but it’s the end of the season and now they get to experience the summers up here. At least they’re safe from the riots and sink-holes!

  4. Brrrr. Bet Eric and Emi just LOVE coming to live in blizzard country, from Florida. Had Emi even ever seen snow before? LOL! I’m guessing not.

  5. Glad you got the guidelines up. It’s important. One of the worst parts of a blizzard is the whiteout and people die a few feet from safety because of it.

  6. You have me shivering just thinking of the weather. I have seen whiteout conditions once or twice living in the northeast. I didn’t venture far out in it.

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