“Well, it's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, my home town...” - Garrison Keillor
All of us who live north of the 45th parallel (or in close proximity of it) are living through the Winter of our Discontent. Like a relentless boxer in the ring, Ol' Man Winter has been landing body blows of snow, Antarctic-like temperatures and driving winds of epic proportions right in the rib cage. The great chorus “Uncle!” can be heard as people trudge out into the cold to dig out their car again and again. And again.
Despite adequate instruction from the city water department to keep a steady stream of water running at the house at all times, we did not heed the warning and a week or so ago awoke to find that we had no water in the house. The line from the street had frozen solid. Fortunately the guys were able to make it to the house later that afternoon. With the frost eight feet deep in the street, it took them nearly an hour to thaw out the line. While we waited together they politely reproved me for not heeding the warning. “It's all about ground temperature, not air temperature,” they reminded me as they wrapped up their gear and headed off to their next house call.
I should have listened better for after a couple of days of the faucet running and a slight warm-up outside, we decided that was enough of that. Linda and I took off on an overnight in Superior in order to attend Ed's track meet the next day. When I called home Saturday morning to check in, Charlie informed me that there was no water at the house. Again! And given that it was Saturday meant that the soonest the city guys could get there was sometime Monday.
During the next four days – as it turned out they didn't get their until Tuesday – I was given a very practical reminder just how much water even a small family uses on an average day what between flushing, bathing, shaving, dishwashing, clothes-washing and the like. Twice a day I was trucking 8 gallons of water from Refuge over to the house to fill the toilet tanks and have water for general bathing. On Monday night, we drove over to one of Linda's co-workers' home just so that the three of us could shower. (How glorious a hot shower feels after even just a couple of days without one!) I nearly hugged Tim, the city-guy, when he showed up at the house on Tuesday afternoon to thaw out our water line again. This time it took him an hour and a half.
|Still open for business|
When a wonderful mid-winter thaw descended on us, I borrowed a roof rake from a friend of mine and spent over an hour going around our house trying to pull down what snow I could. The hardest thing was just getting to the house. The snow banks along the street are about 5 feet high and the snow in the yard is thigh-deep. I managed to get some of the snow down (just in time for another foot or more to fall Thursday night).
And speaking of that snowfall on Thursday night, it was the worst combination of snow – it came down wet and heavy and then the temperature dropped freezing it to the driveway and sidewalks. I think between the bank where Linda works and I am employed to shovel their walk, our driveway, Refuge's walk and my neighbor's driveway late last night when she got stuck and came next door to ask for my help, I maybe shoveled for four hours altogether yesterday. It was like chiseling up loosely formed concrete while a strong Arctic wind blew in your face. My shoulders are feeling it today.
I stopped in at the office before heading up to the Justice Center yesterday morning only to discover that – egads! - we had no water at Refuge. In twenty-two winters here that has never happened. Once again I was on the phone with the city informing them of our dilemma. Given how crummy a day it was and that those guys had already been in their plows for a very long time, I had to make other arrangements for Sunday's service in case they didn't make it that day. Fortunately, they did show up a little after lunch. They were there for nearly two hours. They fixed it so the water will flow continuously and no considerate fool thinking to save the church money will be able to shut it off.
When I go to my homefeed on my Facebook page, I note how many of us are sick, sick, sick of winter. Some folks from Refuge had their hay barn collapse just the other day. A friend from town had not one but two pole sheds collapse. And I thought I heard that Chetek's annual Winterfest (scheduled to be held this weekend) was...er...cancelled because of, yes, winter. And it's only February 22 which means the snow and ice and cold are going to be here for awhile. Shoot, last year we went from Winter to Summer. No one really remembers if we had Spring or not.
My niece who is a sophomore at Northern Michigan in Marquette posted a picture of a sign which reads: “On the bright side have not seen a mosquito in weeks.” I guess that puts things in perspective. It's a statement that a mom might make. “Look at the bright side. At least, it's not hot out.” On the up-side, years from now all of us who have lived through this winter of the Polar Vortex 1, 2 and 3 we will have earned bragging rights. When our grandson or some other youngun' is complaining about the cold, we'll be able to say: “Cold? You think this is cold? This is nothing compared to the Winter of '14. Now that was winter.” And we'll probably sound just as annoying as the old guys who talk about that -60 below day in Cameron, Wisconsin back in the 70s do now.
|Maybe you've seen this one?|
One thing more: you have to be here in order to say that you survived the Winter of 2014. If you went to Florida, Texas or Mexico to escape the cold – even if it was for just a week at a time-share or were on a ministry-trip loving on orphans – it doesn't count. You know who you are. Like my sister who posted this tale of woe on her Facebook page the other day:
I intended to leave my house at 6am to get to work for my first patient at 7am. First, I couldn't get the back door open cause it was frozen shut. So, I had to get Dan up. He was able to do that. Then with my hands full, I trudge out to the garage. Can't get my key into the garage door because the lock is frozen. So, I go back in and get Dan back out. Several tries with the lighter and it finally worked. Finally left at 6:20. It is an ice rink out there.
|As you can tell we don't take it out much|
Now, there's a story whose author deserves a hug, right? Except I happen to know that a week or so before this she and her hubby and son were sunning themselves in 85 degree heat for a week straight somewhere in Mexico. That's what you get for skipping town mid-Winter, Sis. Or how 'bout this text I got just the other day before the heavy snow came from a friend vacationing in the Houston-area:
Heard snow is coming ur way again so we are headed out for snowcones to feel the north's pain. 77 and partly cloudy [here].
The fact that she's from up here doesn't give her a free pass to come back and say she was with me in spirit during this cold stretch just because her tongue turned red from the snow cone she enjoyed. We who have never left, who have been here through driving winds, horrific snow and bitter cold, we keep track. We know who has been here and who has slipped out the back door and got away to far warmer climes when the sledding got tough. Be careful who you tell your “survival” tale to at Bob's. You never know who may be listening and who may ruin your perfectly legitimate snowstorm-story with a, “Yeah, but didn't you go to Mexico for a week that winter, too?” robbing you of whatever bragging rights you thought you were otherwise entitled to.
|We'll leave the tap open this time|