Rural Life

When winter won’t quit



Okay, no time for introspection; I want to load this post before the power cuts out and the internet flashes its “unable to connect” message again.

We are in the midst of a dramatic temperature change: a 50-degree dip in mere hours. Adios, 70 degrees; hello 22. And what’s powering this weather front? Howling wind punctuated by 55 mile-per-hour gusts.

Fifty-five — it’s not just a highway speed. This evening 55 smashed a porch chair to smithereens. Fifty five blew in the barn windows and tore a generous bite from Martin’s office roof.


The roaring racket of fluttering tin lured us from the house; and in the fading light, Martin mounted a ladder and valiantly attempted to tack down the loose roof. But the billowing tin nearly yanked him from perch… nearly sent him airborne. It was scary — watching him cling desperately to the office top, struggling to ride out the wind’s clutches. When it finally receded, he scrambled down and leaned against the wall, shaking.

The roofing? It’s all yours, we told the wind.

And as for this winter? I have just one word:




The Sound



The other day I was alone in the house, working, when I heard a strange sound.

A soft, tinkling timbre.

I tracked the noise to the white, cordless phone nesting below the printer.

A phone that — up until then — had never uttered a dial tone.

I stared at the device, as though it were a snake that might bite me. Finally, extracting it from the cradle, I studied the keypad before tapping the “talk” button.

“Ha… hello?” I said, tentatively.

“Is this the Miller residence? I’m Janice-and-I’m-calling-from-the-Lukemia-and-Lymphoma-Society. And we were wondering if you were interested in donating to–”

I pushed the “off” button and stared at the creamy, contoured gadget — like it was a meteorite that crashed-landed in my lap.

Chronic Funny Farm followers might recall a rambling post back in March 2011, detailing our phone woes. Bottom line? We’ve been robbed of an operable landline for years.

Initially, frying was the problem; electrical storms fritzed the phone and we’d have to replace it. But somewhere between here and now, the problem shifted to the line, not the device. Which is why that white, virgin phone has squatted by the printer for years, nary making a peep.

Martin once cornered a Verizon guy at the gas station, who diagnosed the problem. “It’s power surges,” he said, “and the farmers. They attach their electric fences to telephone poles, the wires cross and it fries the circuitry.”

Well, wonder of wonders. After years our phone miraculously unfried itself.

Why is this significant? Why do we care when landlines are going the way of the Dodo bird?

Because a home phone has superior clarity over a cell. And I need that when, for example, I call my Granny and I’m struggling to hear her whisper-frail voice.

Now the landline is back in action, baby!

The trouble is — now that we have this revolutionary technology — I often forget that it exists. (Thought I just checked and remarkably, it still has a dial tone. Fascinating…)

Even Hadley, once our resident call screener (see this 2012 post) is mystified by the foreign ringing machine. “What IS that noise?” she recently asked, glancing about as the phone sang its trill.

In fact, the only time that I realize, “we gotta phone!” is when a solicitor calls.

And that’s why — were we not dazzled by this flash of technology —

–I’d probably pitch it in the trash.




Photo Op


In the winter months, newspapers love running seasonal photos. You’ve all seen them after a snow: a caption beneath a picture of dogs romping in a park; or kids in puffed-up parkas, careening down a sled run; or the silhouette of a lone cross-country skier, commuting to work. (I know you’ve all spotted that last one; it’s an editorial fave.)

So nice, picturesque images of a winter wonderland.


Typical caption: Child cavorts in Saturday snowfall.


The photo above is from my archives. Hadley, a few years ago.


This one, however, is a recent snapshot of winter revelry.


Caption: Pigpen wallows in salt, sand and other road scum after recent snowfall.


Pigpen was so filthy, so completely caked in corrosive chemicals, I had to document it. That disgustingly dirty car, in its element.



Somehow the kids managed to carve a few letters out of this mobile art medium. But it wasn’t easy.


I should have taken it to the carwash but instead, I let yesterday’s sleetish-rain wash away Pigpen’s ghostly glow.

Just in time for tonight’s ice show… and another round of sand, salt and grit.

It’s a good winter to be Pigpen.