** “Crats” are certain creepy cats residing in my household who decided that entering walls and creeping through them like a rat is a good thing. I, however, strongly disagree with this theory and covered all the ports of entry.
As the snow began falling here over the weekend and temperatures plunged into the heinous Nebraska below-zero category, I recalled an adventure we had when we first moved here in 2006. It all began with a simple NOAA hazardous weather watch…sigh.
We had just moved into our new house and the snow started. La neige. Beautiful. Yes, I am one of those whack jobs who loves snow. I love to hang out in snow, run in it, slide around in it…I love snow. And we had not seen snow for at least the previous ten years. I had gone into withdrawal.
But, but…but….getting around in it is absolutely not wonderful. As a matter of fact, it is heinous. Ergo, the most wonderful fiction has been created since the advent of travel through la neige: the snow day. The snow days justifies leaving la neige alone…inviolate except by a sled but never, ever, by car tire treads as you theoretically make your way to work and school…NOT.
As the new Chief Judge at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation Tribal Court, however, it became my responsibility to declare snow days. Did I know this before I went home the Friday prior to the falling loveliness? Nope. Oops. But once I knew, I did what I had to to assure the staff and other judges did not wind up upside-down in a ditch. I called them and told them, “Stay home!” Woot woot…yesssss…stay home.
But Mel and I, well, we had our own little predicament. We lived on top of a butte (no, not a butt, although in the right light….nah, never mind) you see. Right on top…with a driveway angled at about a thirty-five/forty-degree pitch.
That angle + over two feet of snow = major recipe for adventure. Now add in adventure man aka Mel, and you have the obvious dialogue transpiring some time between coffee and the early morning e-mail check:
“Babe, we really need a snowblower,”Mel offered.
In the bubble over my head followed by a vaguely stony silence: What? A freakin’ snowblower? What’s wrong with the old shovel method?
“I’ll let you think about it, Ok?”
Well, I thought about it for the next two days as I watched Mel struggle to merely scrape out vague “tracks” for our four-by pickup to follow. Suddenly I felt mean. Like the meanest person ever for taking so long. Yeah, ok, so had it been ME out there shoveling, I would have made the request much sooner, but Mel is a die-hard when it comes to manly-man stuff.
So as soon as he came back in the house, mid-snowstorm still, we set out onto the path of finding a snowblower. We were on a mission. About half an hour and one visit to “The Mercantile” store later, we had in our possession a “Snow King” snowblower.
“They sell it in Canada, so it must be good,” I had reasoned. Needless to say, this logic would soon prove most significantly flawed.
We brought the device home, snow swirling around our heads as we faithfully primed the engine; checked the choke settings; and briefly read the “How To” manual…in French…then English just to be sure we had gotten it right on two continents. With a smile, Mel pulled the rip cord. Pffft pffftttttt splat smoke puff…..then….nothing.
“Maybe it’s cold,” we had reasoned. I turned and noticed two dogs and one crat bearing witness to our soon-to-be humiliation with rapt fascination. The other cats were nowhere to be seen – probably off cratting about I suppose.
Check the settings; make sure everything is set to start that puppy…rip….pffft, vague rumble, nothing.
“It’s trying to start,” we both said.
Mel’s smile was beginning to fade into vague puzzlement. Rip, rip rip rip rip RIIIIP.
“I’m calling those guys, this thing doesn’t work” he declared before disappearing into the house.
I stared at the thing, wondering what the funny yellow stuff was spluttering out from under the engine each time he had ripped it. Naturally, being engine stupid, I removed my glove, and stuck my finger into the somewhat slimy substance before putting it under my nose. Foooooo….gas, I thought, that’s definitely not cool.
I figured, well, let the girlie girl give it a go, maybe it will work with a gentler touch. I checked to make sure Mel was nowhere in sight just in case it started and flew over the embankment into a crumpled metal heap a thousand feet below; then made sure everything was good to go. My rip was much less dramatic than Mel’s – my body did not twist like I was mid-aerobics class; and I felt a slight pop in my shoulder; but rip it I did. Pffft, splutter, splat and one pouf of smoke was encouraging. So I tried again…and again…and…again.
Walking into the house while Mel was deep in conversation with the salesperson, I declared, “That thing doesn’t work.”
He hung up and announced, “They said bring it back, we’ll look at it.”
Not wanting to suffer the humiliation of not having been able to figure it out; and having visions of this 17-year old kid saying, “Gee, you forgot to open the gas line,” RIP and firing Mel’s new toy up without a hitch causing us both great embarrassment, I mumbled, “Let’s give it one more go just in case things have flowed since we last tried.”
What on earth could have been suddenly flowing in, like, 15-degree weather was beyond me, but it seemed logical at the time.
Dutifully, out Mel goes – we prime it once more rip rip RIIIIP….and there stood Mel, shocked horror written all over his features as he held aloft the now severed rip, er, pull cord. I could not stop laughing, nor could he, although I suspect deep down, he wanted to cry. Off we went to the Mercantile, both afraid of being accused of sabotaging the equipment; and me asserting my lawyerly persona to formulate vague threats of lawsuits and declaring firmly “Rip, er, pull cords should not break that soon.”
We arrived and the young man who had sold us the defective monstrosity was most humble and apologetic. The owner/manager came out and we discussed what to do. Repair it? Nah, trade across the board. At the end of the day, literally, and snow swirling harder, we settled on a better model which Mel and I insisted be started on site to assure that it WOULD start.
“You can plough the highway with this thing,” the manly men asserted. Mel was smiling again, nodding in agreement as we all became engulfed in a cloud of exhaust smoke. Cough cough.
“Yeah, you know, I could.” The realm of possibility had been opened in a new, lovely, humanitarian way and, just for a moment, I could tell Mel had actually considered that possibility.
The difference was paid and home we went. Dusk was settling in over the hills when we arrived at our home. Snow was falling fiercely, commanding that the machine start. Mel fired it into life and, as the headlight illuminated the blinding whiteness that had accumulated everywhere, he hit the forward throttle and took off like a bat out of hell, the machine somewhat dragging him at first with the force of 8.5 horses.
I did not have to see his face to know he was smiling, laughing probably, at the ability to clear snow in a fraction of the time shoveling would take; he was making it safe for me; and our neighbors to get onto the driveway and head down the hill. He’s a good man, I thought as I watched him for the better part of an hour from the crest of the butte.
After he retired the machine to the shed and came up the hill, his nose somewhat red and smile permanently affixed to his face, I kissed him and said, “Have fun, Babe?”
“I love you,” had been his only reply before we came inside and warmed up for the evening. The Crats slumbered in my lap as I watched him content at the thought of conquering the driveway and avoiding major litigation all at once. I knew then that this is going to be a good life with a good share of adventure added for effect.