I’ve certainly posted pictures of enormous snow drifts and buried hot tubs over the years. And I’ve shared many before & after pictures of our deck in Montana that would be buried overnight and require my little body to shovel as if there were no tomorrow.
I’ve also told winter tales of woe from our ranch in North Dakota, where the winds blow in unimaginably cold temperatures for days and you pray that you don’t get stuck and that your diesel doesn’t gel.
But this winter… this is one for the ages.
Its been particularly harsh in Bismarck because they have had two extended periods of extreme cold weather and a tremendous amount of snowfall. Usually the snow comes down and blows around. The drifts make travel and movement a challenge but the volume doesn’t often stack up.
Its stacking up this year.
Like it did in 1996/97 where everyone in North Dakota remembers trying to beat the swollen Red River with sandbags. They were unsuccessful and downtown Grand Forks, ND flooded.
Everyone in the state watched the largest city get buried in raging, muddy waters that were formed when the snow never seemed to stop that winter. Snow that was shoved to the sides of the road higher than our one-ton pickup, Big Red when we were at a hockey game in Grand Forks months before the flood.
And as if that wasn’t bad enough, fire broke out downtown but nobody could get to it because of the floodwaters. North Dakotans are remembering this springtime disaster because the snow this year is much like the snow that winter.
Because nobody wants to see this again.
But we know that many precautions have been made and banks were reinforced so we are all hopeful to avoid that kind of nightmare.
Or the nightmare of 2011 when Bismarck flooded after heavy snowfall in Montana had to go somewhere.
It chose the mighty Missouri.
Families were evacuated, homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed and an army of people and pets moved into our home with Alistair for most of the summer.
The Army Corps of Engineers will hopefully be more on top of things this spring so we won’t see a repeat this year.
Because there’s a boat-load of snow and its only the middle of January.
Many Montanans say that the snow used to come down like it has all of the time in the “old days”. That people were shoveling and roof-raking all winter long. It was the price you paid to live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth and I guess we’re paying for it now ourselves.
I have it a lot easier than poor Alistair, though.
For starters, I can plow in the warm comfort of Big Red with Jack Johnson, Iz or Coldplay blaring out of the speakers.
I have the big tractor with the covered cab and more heaters and a radio for company.
I also only have one horse to care for here versus the dozen he must feed and protect in Bismarck.
Which is a challenge when he’s not there for 2 weeks. Its a challenge when New Neighbor is clueless about our tractor (which does not have a cab, heat or music) and damn near destroys a rim as he tries to clean up the snow. And its a challenge when it feels like 60 degrees below zero and the wind has blown for 3 days while snow kept coming down but he still needs a road to get to the horses and to get to work.
I got to post cute videos of me listening to a warming Hawaiian ukulele with the incredibly beautiful Horseshoe Hills just beyond our Montana dream home while poor Alistair froze himself for hours trying to make sense out of the mess in front of him.
A mess New Neighbor truly hadn’t helped with. A mess our postman refused to enter so we didn’t receive mail for a few days. A mess that was very, very cold.
He had to stop 5 times during the massive snow upheaval to shiver and shudder in our heated tack room. He traded socks, toques and gloves and stuck his bare toes directly into the slots on the baseboard heater and hoped beyond hope that when the tractor sounded like it wanted to seize up thanks to gelled diesel that it was just messing with him.
Its not as if he has the splendor of the Rockies to look at while he’s trying to move snow from here to there.
He has the flat, white horizon. Its a treeless, dreary, almost depressing landscape when its like this and you recognize how Seasonal Affected Disorder can creep in.
But this is why we do what we do.
Because he gets to call this place home as well and we can enjoy our time together with our pets, heated tractor and vehicles that hopefully all start.
Today Alistair has been back in the big, warm tractor snowblowing out our driveways that are now too tall for Big Red’s blade to push aside. He has the roads wide enough to land a plane on so I’m ready for the next dump of snow.
And we laughed a lot yesterday splitting wood with our electric wood splitter, playing with our remaining band of merry misfits, hot tubbing with toques on our heads and fires lit in the tiki torches he had to dig out.
We watched PGA golf on Oahu and smiled at the vast difference in landscapes while sipping martinis and wine, and we talked about the antibiotics Cleo is on for a dental infection and the meds I started for Sport for a likely overactive thyroid and we shared a sad glance or two at the empty, cleaned-out ferret cage, Quebec and we make each other smile when spirt of Luigi or spirit of Calypso has something to say and we take Loki outside and beg her to do her business out there and we wonder how long we have with her but we can’t get enough of her snuggling into us and onto us during couch time or through the night and the cribbage game continues and we are hopeful that surgery might be soon to remove a pesky pelvic pin for hubby and that eventually, some day, maybe when the snow melts and hopefully doesn’t flood riverbanks onto the prairies, the sun will shine and we will be able to get back to our golf game.
We plug the rigs and the tractors in. We only use diesel 1 which southerners don’t know even exists. We keep a steady supply of wine and vodka and frozen food and pet food on hand. We split more wood. And we move more snow.
And Alistair took the keys away from New Neighbor, saying it was time for them to get their own tractor.
Its just one of those winters and we’re doing everything we can to get through it.
With our version of winter Aloha, booze and hot tubs.