Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Whatever Wednesday - Happy Thanksgiving, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

This post is partially to let you all know how thankful I am for each and every one of you.  You keep me motivated and happy.  Thank you!

Another thing I've been meaning to post about is the blizzard we had back in October.  I have much to be thankful for.  And though I knew most of what I realized that day, that storm helped me to appreciate it just a bit more.

As a resident of South Dakota for my entire life, blizzards aren't anything new, though they have become less severe and less frequent since I was a kid.  The weather has turned fairly mild for our area over the past fifteen years or so.  We've had some bad storms, but only one or two every year or less.  

I don't know about you, but I've read my fair share of books that talk about blizzards.  Of course, I can't place any of them, but I do recall reading about the terrible hardships people endure during a blizzard and how trying they are, and more importantly, how fast things can turn bad.  (Probably my Jack London experiences.)

In my life I've been extremely fortunate to have been able to ride out all the storms at home.  I've never been stranded in a vehicle during a blizzard and I've never had to venture out into the weather.

This year, however, I thought I was going to die.  (Seriously.)

This year...  in October...  We had a winter storm warning with large amounts of snow expected in a short time frame.  Okay, been there, done that.  We'll probably lose electricity, be bored for a few days and then have to shovel.  Nothing really new to me, so we treated it as just another day.  What we didn't expect was how wet and heavy the snow was going to be.

On Thursday night it started to rain and later turned into snow with thunder and lightning.  Something I've learned over the years - a winter storm that produces thunder and lightning isn't something you really want to be near.

Our electricity went out about 5:00 AM Friday morning.  Inconvenient, but not unusual.  The snow was accumulating as expected and was making everything white.  I am not a winter lover, but I love the snow (for a couple days).  It's so peaceful as it falls and if you go out at night, while it's snowing, it's almost as if you are the only person on the planet.  The snow muffles all sound and drifts slowly to the ground.  There's something about it that makes me feel as if I'm actually connected to this earth, a part of it all.

When the electricity goes out we know we are going to be without our normal, every day distractions such as television, computers and internet.  Again, inconvenient for our way of life, but kind of fun in a camping sort of way.  (We do enjoy camping.)
I took this picture on the drive home from the local grocery store before the storm got bad.

The roads weren't too bad yet, so my husband and I took a trip to the local grocery store to get food that we didn't have to cook.  Within half an hour of returning home the electricity came back on around 3:00 PM.  We rejoiced even as the snow fall became heavier.  The roast in the crock pot wouldn't be wasted after all.
Some of the branches on our smaller tree in the front yard were bent to the ground from the weight of the snow when we got home.

I think our tree is a boxelder.
With things back in hand, my husband took the youngest girl and laid down for a nap, my middle girl fell asleep in the living room, my oldest was watching television and I was playing around on my computer.

Around 5:00 PM, seemingly out of the blue, my oldest and I heard this terrible cracking sound.  It seemed to last forever but I couldn't make myself move from my seat to see what was going on.  Part of that was the realization of what was going on.  

 My dad's house is over 100 years old and he has five cottonwood trees that are just as old and they are huge.  I knew we were losing a limb or maybe even an entire tree and I was frozen in fear, trepidation, and wrapped in a prayer that we'd all be safe.

When the terrible noise ceased with a house shaking crash my oldest was frantic.

"Mom.  That was a tree.  That was a whole tree."

I couldn't find any fault in her assessment and immediately woke my husband.

"Rick.  Wake up.  I think a tree just fell."

It didn't take him long to become fully awake and get his shoes on.  He and I, as well as my oldest, understood that if the tree had hit my dad's house, we may be without some of our favorite people in the entire world.

He hurried over to the house as I readied the girls to get out of our own house.  The trees, if they fall the right way, have the potential to crush our house as well.  We could not stay here any longer.

I'd been worrying about this all day since we'd been losing limbs and had even lost our internet because of a falling limb that ripped out the wire from the pole to the house.  So, even if I was worried about the damage, I wasn't surprised.

My husband came back and let me know that the tree hadn't hit the house but my dad's garage.  I let out a sigh of relief and made sure my dad and brothers, if they hadn't already, were going to leave the house and go to our place of business. 

Thankfully, they are smart men and were already out of there.  But, with this new hazard staring us down, we knew we had to leave our house as well.  We've had a few emergency types of experiences - blizzards and flooding - and we usually gather as a family at our bar and this was no exception.

The tree fell in such a way that it missed our Chevy Impala by less than two inches.  This is not an exaggeration, the branches were very nearly touching our car.  I told my husband that we needed to move our vehicles, so we tried.  He was able to back up a few feet but wasn't able to turn around and ended up against the branches as he tried to maneuver out of the line of fire. Unfortunately, the car was stuck.

This picture was taken the next day.
I got a tiny bit further than my husband.  Just a tiny bit.
We aren't the only ones who got stuck.  My brother's car somehow found it's way a little further down the driveway than ours did.

 My vehicle has all-wheel-drive and I was able to move away some.  I was going to continue to drive down to The Barn to rendezvous with the rest of the family but found myself stuck as well.  The girls and I sat in the vehicle as my husband went back into the house to retrieve some blankets, pillows and food.  He didn't want any of us to help him, just in case another tree succumbed to the tons of snow that blanketed them.

By now, the snow was coming down so thickly that visibility was down to only a couple feet and the wind was starting to pick up.  We sat in my Trailblazer for half an hour to forty-five minutes watching the storm and started to lose the light.  I told my husband if we were going to join the rest of the family, we'd better get a move on.

This is a real picture of the hill in front of our house.  The visibility was down to a few feet.
After I took the previous picture I made sure to get the mirror in the picture for reference.
Our view of the Impala near the fallen tree.
My dad's garage should be in this picture, but it's covered with tree.

 Our bar is probably less than five-hundred feet from our house and I could walk the distance with my eyes closed.  No problem.  Lets get this done.

We struck out and the wind was much more biting than I'd expected.  It took my breath away when it hit me in the face.

My husband carried the five-year-old, my oldest carried the three-year-old and I was in charge of the supplies stuffed inside a couple of sleeping bags.

We trudged through the snow for about fifteen feet and had to take a break.  It took forever to make our first landmark, the empty diesel fuel tank that sits on the property.

The difficulty of slogging through the hip high snow along with the wind that made it impossible to catch my breath was an amazing development and I figured, fifteen feet into the trek, I'd probably not make the well worn journey.  The journey I'd taken almost every day of my life for the past seventeen years.  The journey I'd taken late at night with no moon or star light.  I know this path better than any other and I was sure I'd not make it this time.

I told my husband, "I don't know if I can do this."  Looking back on it, I'm certain my voice was filled with shock.  Again, I'd read about the difficulties of moving through weather such as this, but it never registered until I experienced it.  

I was resigned to being left behind.  My husband had better get my girls to The Barn.  Just go.  That thought kept repeating in my head.  Just go.

The only things that kept me moving were my husband and my children.  

My dear, dear husband yelled at me with terror in his voice.  "Get up.  We have to keep moving."

In my defense, I wasn't just laying around, watching the snow drift down on me.  I kept finding myself stuck in a snowbank in a standing position. I could barely find the strength to lift my legs.

Thank goodness for cell phones.  I called my brother.

"Come and get us!  We are by the pond!"

"What?  You're at the bar?"

"We are by the pond and might not make it!"

We have a small pond about thirty feet from the bar

My brother's tone told me he didn't feel the urgency I did. "Well, come inside."  

I don't think he fully grasped what we were experiencing out there and I know he wasn't able to hear me very well over the howling wind coming through from my end.

"Come and get us!" I screamed and hung up the phone.  

My oldest stopped in her tracks and wasn't moving any further.  She just couldn't.  I could understand, but I couldn't allow it.

"Just go!"  I told her as my husband took the three-year-old from her and the supplies from me.

My brother came out and took the little girls into the building.  We all knew how close we were, but the only one with the drive to move on was my husband.  And, the only reason I continued to move was because it was the only thing to do.

I find myself afraid of death every day of my life, but when I stared at it, in that moment, I was okay with it.  However, I wasn't alone out there in the biting wind and wet snow.  My husband stood by my side and urged me on, my daughters' cries of terror and dispair pushed me forward and gave me the drive to lift my legs and plow through the heavy snow.  Had I tried to make that journey alone, I don't think I would have made it.

I am thankful for my family.  Because of them, I have the drive to pick my feet up and keep moving in whatever direction I'm going, through whatever disaster that we are experiencing together.  They motivate me to just go.

The pictures below show the fallen trees, there were two of them, the depth of the snow and the damage to our place.

A friend of the family stands near the fallen tree.  He's about six feet tall to give you a little perspective on the size of the trees.


  1. Bless ya.

    I'll stick to our hurricanes. Instead of white-outs...our days can turn as dark as midnight when the clouds get thick under an F3 storm. Thankfully we've had nothing but F1s skirt Tampa since we moved here in '87

  2. you shoud buy a yellow jeep like mine..... we laugh at snow.... bet Ms. Gray buys one in the next book..... just saying


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