We knew it was coming. It wasn't too early. It was time for the first major snowstorm of the season.
Still, the first thoughts were, "Why didn't we get that snow blower ready?"
Tom spent the first morning hours warming up the lawn tractor with a space heater in the garage and connecting the snow pusher and blower attachment. Only 5 or 6 inches accumulated, but the wind had howled, making sure that the 100-foot, uphill driveway was mostly a 10- to 12-inch drift.
While the tractor was warming up, I made good use of the extra time by feeding and watering the birds. The back door opened to the inside of the garage, leaving a wall of at least a foot of drifted snow to the south. I stepped down into the fluffy white outdoors to the top of my Sorels carrying a bucket of black oil sunflower seeds to the impatient chickadees. Then I carried the frozen plastic birdbath to within reach of the heater's 50-foot extension cord, wondering how long it would take to thaw.
As Tom and the snow blower started doing their thing, I pushed the button on the garage door opener. The door chugged and slowly raised, leaving another 10- to 12-inch wall to the north. There was no way my little red Saturn wagon could back its low slung belly through that snow and up the hill to the street. I grabbed the big aluminum snow scoop and started to do my part.
We saw the garbage hauler's pickup truck go by. Darn! We'd been so busy we hadn't put the trash out yet. No problem, he usually goes by at least twice; we'll get it out before he makes the next pass.
I was scheduled to be in Walker by 9 a.m., so I called to tell them I'd be late. We blew and pushed the snow to the sides of the sand driveway until I could get my car out of its dry and protected home in the garage.
Unfortunately, the garbage man and one other truck were the only traffic our road had seen. No snowplows yet. So I carefully positioned my tires in the tracks that had been made and scraped bottom for more than three miles to the plowed state highway. I decided if anyone met me on the unplowed road, I'd stand my ground in the tracks to avoid getting stuck in the higher snow.
The drive from Longville to Walker took longer than usual. Between the drive and the unplanned morning activities I arrived nearly two hours late. That wasn't unheard of when I lived in the Twin Cities and was at the mercy of public transportation. It was common practice to bundle up in layers of wool and down to wait for the bus to come, knowing it would likely be at least 30 minutes late, if it didn't break down along the way. The expressways were anything but express, and everyone arrived late to work.
In northern Minnesota, however, people drive many miles and come from all directions. I've grown accustomed to hearing that the neighborhoods 60 miles to the west got just a dusting and those 20 miles south were snowed in. The weather is bound to vary a great deal when it covers that kind of territory. Next time we'll get nothing and my friends to the west will be buried.
Of course our neighborhoods got nothing compared to our fellow Minnesotans near St. Cloud and Willmar. They will have many dramatic stories rivaling those from "The Big Halloween Storm." We all remember that. I lived in Apple Valley at the time. The buses were running just fine, and I was the only one to make it to my office. Except, Kathleen, who cross country skied to work from another part of Minneapolis.
The real problem came when we decided to leave downtown. Actually Kathleen got home OK. The buses had been canceled, though, and my ride had to drive all the way in from Apple Valley. I'm pretty sure we were in the only crazy car left on the road as we crept and crawled our way south.
I've decided in the next big storm I'm staying home until my friend Phil picks me up on his snowmobile.
(Diane McCormack is a correspondent for The Brainerd Dispatch and a freelance writer living in north central Minnesota. Send comments or feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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