A Strange, Scary Snow

Friday Night: The house has been quiet for a while. Kids are in bed, the TV’s off and the dryer finally rumbled to a stop.

But outside is a scene of whirling white and lights and noise. Martin’s hunkered over the tractor which rumbles up and down the drive, then loops around the telephone pole in the yard and roars toward the house. With it, there’s a constant, ear-splitting litany of barks. Maisie’s tractor herding reverberates off the barn and house — I don’t know how the kids sleep through that racket.

I’m out in the blowing snow as well, calling the horses into their stalls and chucking a flake of hay to each one. Around 9 o’clock, I throw a saddle and bridle on Chance, toss a blanket over his back, and force the pasture gate open against a pile of snow. Then I trudge toward the indoor arena, following the remnants of tire tracks that are rapidly vanishing.
Forging through a blizzard at night to ride a horse is absolute madness. But on a day when my father’s behavior has landed him in a hospital psyche ward, riding in a snowstorm isn’t so off-beat.

Aside from the hum of the arena lights and Chance’s muffled footfalls in the dirt, it’s peaceful inside. There’s no wheelbarrow rattling with feed, or horses clattering down the aisle. No car doors slamming or people yelling. Every so often the wind pulls a ribbon of snow off the roof with a “whump,” but otherwise it’s silent.

By 10 pm, Chance is back in his stall, bundled up for the night, and a half-hour later Martin and I are in the kitchen, plotting our next move. The snow is piling up at an alarming rate — there’s almost 10 inches already and we’re only 6 hours in. It’ll be time to plow again around midnight.

And just then we’re in the dark. The house powers down and after a few flickers, reluctantly shutters to life again. And off and on again. And again.

Losing power is almost a certainty — but not yet. It’s too damn early to be without heat and water.

So we frantically scurry around, stacking wood, cranking up the thermostat, and packing a cooler with snow, then milk and food from the fridge.

After that, there’s nothing else to do but fire up the tractor, wince as the house powers down, and hope that it comes to life again.