Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hope Springs Eternal

Trouble with having friends in Arizona is getting Christmas cards from them with a poke and jab about our weather.

"Heard you had a little snow."

"Got up this morning and it was a chilly 72."

"Had to turn on the heat last night."

"The air conditioning on the car cut out on my way to work."

Oh yes.

I remember planting pansies a few days before Christmas in the old wagon used as a display for the furniture store where I was employed.

You may remember me commenting about a few snowfalls, calling them dumplings. Then there was a big dump. Last weekend to be exact. We've been running on a mound of firewood from a bin in the basement. Yesterday with outside temperatures soaring to twenty degrees, I didn't bother with a wood fire. It's easy to push the > arrow on the thermostat. All the debris on the cement basement floor from the firewood went into the wood furnace and now I can walk into the bin. I have to be careful in selecting a piece of oak slab wood because one pull can unleash an avalanche. If you're bent over looking at some dumb stick piece of wood, this can hurt.

It may even trigger a specialized medical condition I read about the other day. The usual symptoms are an onslaught depression as a result of a severe conk on the noggin. I don't need another dose of depression. Winter in rural Wisconsin is depressing enough. One man, however, after being thrown from a horse and suffering a concussion didn't experience mind numbing depression. The man, a famous director with lots of money and a 17,000 square foot house, decided to change his life. Muttering something about a superficial lifestyle he moved out of the mansion into a trailer. Then he turned to philanthropy.

Looking at the dwindling wood supply, I decide that I'll make a path from the woodshed to the house with my pickup truck. God steps in to interfere when on a return trip from the town dump, I decide that having Dawn in the truck will give me enough weight to plow through the snow. Previously, I prepared the way by shoveling out an entrance way through the snowdrift created by the town plow. If I get a running start from the short stretch of driveway in front of the shed we call a barn, I can make it up the hill in the beginning of the backyard.

Half way into the trek, the truck stalls. It won't go forward or back. I get out to ponder the dilemma. Idea! Grab the wheelbarrow and run some firewood to the truck to give the rear wheels some traction. Exhausted after two wheelbarrow runs in deep snow, I get another idea. I go in the house to pee and ask Dawn if she'll sit on the tailgate. Redistributing the weight to the rear wheels is a great idea. It gets me almost to the opening of the woodshed. Mind you, the clutch is a little fried by now and it smells to high heaven.

While I toss a few pieces of box elder into the bed of the truck, Dawn grabs a shovel so I can clear a path from the wood shed to the truck to make it easier for my wheelbarrow. We get about half a face cord piled across the rear end of the truck. I race the truck forward and back up like a maniac toward the wood shed. In clement weather I've done this a hundred times. There's just enough clearance between the steel posts holding up the roof of the lean-to and the bed of my truck for me to squeeze by if I suck in my gut.

When I get six feet away from the wood shed, I chicken out and decide not to back into the wood shed at twenty mph. My track record with the truck is dismal of late.

Cut to the chase.

We fill the truck with firewood. On the rear gate, we pile flat slabs of cut off 4X4's. Now, I have the equivalent of a bull-dozer for traction. I drive back and forth across the back lawn, down the hill onto the driveway that is the town road and repeat the process endlessly until there's smoke coming from under the truck. The clutch is not only smoking, it's so hot that it melts snow into steam. Another really good idea.

I shut down the Ford and grab a shovel. I'll shovel the last hundred feet from the ruts in the snow I call a "run" up to the house and the basement window where I have a homemade chute to the wood bin.

Dawn appears and helps shovel snow. After 30 minutes, we've cleared a path. I back up the truck amid more smoke from the clutch. The wood is dumped down the chute into the wood bin. A clever person would note that a truck emptied of it's load will not run well through deep snow. Since I'm half way between clever and stupid, I leave a bit of uncured maple across the back bed of the truck over the wheel wells. With less traction, the wheels spin and the clutch smokes as I gun my way across the back lawn desperately trying to make it to the driveway.

I park the truck, close the driver's side window and hope the acrid odor of burned clutch will dissipate over time. My clothes reek. I look at Dawn and begin a rant of self deprecation about putting the firewood 300 yards away from the house, not hiring someone to plow a path in the back yard, about being too cheap to buy a snow thrower. It all adds up to one collective...

Last year I made a wood sled. It was made from half inch plywood and 2X4's. The undercarriage of the sled dragged in deep snow. When fully loaded, the sled took two people to pull the F-ing thing. Two years ago, I got lucky and an ice storm coated the snow so I could wheelbarrow wood to the house.

Dawn's wearing a hooded sweatshirt sitting on the couch knitting a sweater for Matthew. I'm lolling in the warmest place in the house-my office. It's where the chimney runs through the closet cracking the plaster walls. The closet wall gets so hot, the door must be kept open.

We haven't ventured outside since before noon. Mandy is moaning next to me.

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