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Another Day in the Country

It’s a cautionary tale

© Another Day in the Country

This column, these words, are coming to you like smoke signals from an iceberg floating on a frozen sea.

They aren’t an SOS tramped out in the snow because I’m not in need of rescue. They are more like a far-off white flag: “I give up!”

This particular siege of winter weather is making “warmer climes” seem more and more appealing.

My friend Norma texted me, “Why aren’t we in Cabo?” as if we could just skip all those hundreds of miles across foreign borders on a whim.

Then again, she does this more often than I do — just to get away from all the snow in Sun Valley during the long, long winter season there.

This year, in Sun Valley, the snow was loath to come. It was late. And when it came, would you believe they had snow machines making even more snow at the same time?

At such a wonderful ski retreat, they rarely get too much snow. They can’t get enough of it!

Then again, all those folks who go there for ski breaks turn around and head home after a few days, while the regulars who live there year-round are stuck with pristine snow when it gets dirty, piled high, and crusted with ice.

This snow break we’ve all been experiencing has lasted too long in my book. I’m feeling land-locked in Ramona. I can get out of town if I really need to. Jess actually got to work two days this past week, but it took some heroics.

She started off for work cautiously, got as far as the railroad tracks, and there was a train. We get used to trains blocking our entrance or exit to town. We’ve come to expect it, but it’s still a pain in the butt.

Going around is the only alternative to waiting it out, and waiting it out can be loooong looooooong waits, sometimes an hour or more.

One time, when our friends the Kutzels came from California to visit their house in Ramona, they got stuck on the other side of the tracks. It was late at night. 

We told them, “Turn around. We’ll come get you and lead you into town another way.”

Coming or going another way can be fraught with danger in the middle of the night, when there are muddy roads or snowstorms.

Blocked by the train on her first day of trying to get to work, Jess decided to go around the Ramona crossing, down Pawnee Rd., then cross over to Quail Creek Rd., where she hoped it would be semi-clear sailing toward Marion.

Pawnee was touch and go, and then she saw a cleared road that went by a wind farm. It appeared to be bladed and showing traffic, so why not take this shortcut over to Quail Creek and be safely on her way to work sooner?

She was wary, staying in the tracks of previous drivers, and then, suddenly, the tracks stopped.

She could see Quail Creek Rd. ahead, but her poor little old sedan couldn’t see its way through that much snow.

There was no way to turn around or even back up. She was stuck!

Highway help is useless at this point. What you need are farmers. She called Art. Art called the Stroda boys, and rescue was on its way.

Finally, three hours after she blithely started off for work on a winter’s morn in Kansas, she was once again on semi-solid footing and on her way to Marion.

I keep telling myself that winters are not usually this harsh in Kansas and that a hard freeze like this with snow on the ground does not usually last this long.

We always have a little of this — a few days maybe, a night or two in a row below zero — but then the thermometer is up and down, skipping around in the 30s and 40s. 

Snow on the ground at any depth brings out all the caution lights for me. I literally watch my steps!

When I go out to take food and water to the ducks, I take a walking stick for extra steadiness, just in case the terrain varies, and I have my cell phone in my pocket.

It was in the middle of an Oregon winter with deep snow on the ground that my mother, at my age, met her Waterloo.

A country girl, born and bred in Kansas, she was used to winter weather, and she just needed a little exercise, some fresh air, and decided to walk down to the mailbox at the end of the lane.

Maybe someone had sent a card. Perhaps her girls had written a letter.

My father, who always was a more cautious sort, tried to dissuade her.

“Wait till I’ve bladed the driveway again,” he said.

But she ventured forth, slipped when her foot hit an uneven patch of ground, and broke her leg. 

Her girls came to help. Eventually, her leg healed, but it was shorter than her other leg by some good bit and hampered her walking.

This one decision impacted the rest of her life — all of our lives. It became clear that they needed more help, rescue closer at hand, so they came back to Ramona, their hometown, to be with us, spending the last of their days in the country.

Last modified Jan. 24, 2024

 

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