Thursday, February 10, 2011

Our Snow Adventure - Part 2

So we still didn't have hay for the yaks. And now the car was a mile away, without gas.

"There's no reason for you to come with me," Quantum said, that morning.  "If it's not the gas, then you won't be able to do anything. "
"Take CK with you then.  At least he knows something about mechanics."
"I'll be fine. I'll come back here before I go out to town. I need to grab another propane tank anyway."
 I tucked my mom's number into his pocket and made him promise he'd call her so that she could let me know via IMs if he had problems. As you may know, the little valley we live in prevents cell service, so he couldn't call home even if I'd had a phone here. Sometimes you can get a signal way up the road - about the same area where the car had died last night.

I put Mom on alert. She was going to spend the day near the phone in case there was trouble.

He was back faster than I'd expected. Yup, we'd been out of gas. But by the time he was ready to go again, it was getting towards 1pm. The spare tire had to be changed out again, the chains fixed and refitted, the propane tanks changed out and the empties hauled into the back of the truck.

"You sure you don't want me to come with?"
"It'll be faster if I just run into town myself."

Meanwhile I busied myself with the joyous chores that lack of plumbing entails. Mainly I cleaned the litterbox (amazing how fast that thing gets nasty with two cats now) and  pulled the "outhouse" bucket out of the closet and changed it out. The filthy thing was almost overflowing. We'd planned on dealing with it yesterday, but our disasterous journey (or lack thereof) had delayed us. I put the bucket outside, found another bucket that we'd used last time, and dumped the frozen plastic bag full of poop and urine into a bin.  Well, almost frozen. FYI, urine doesn't completely freeze. At least not at the temperatures we've seen so far. We just bought a cargo trailer ($20 so you can imagine the shape it must be in) and once we can get it out here, we'll haul our trash and poop to the dump.

In dry weather it's an hour round trip to town. So when by 4pm he still wasn't home, I wasn't too worried. Two hours in town to pick up hay, pick up groceries, get propane, that isn't bad. Except I noticed it had just started snowing.

"The yaks need food. What if he didn't make it out?" I said to the puppy.
Zen perked his head sideways like the RCA dog, but didn't offer any useful advice.

I grabbed a knife and a plastic bag, then hauled the dog over to CK's trailer. "I'm going to cut some grass for the yaks," I told him, handing him the leash.

It must have taken me a half hour to fill the bag halfway with grass. The grass may look like it's everywhere, but most of it is in thin thready bundles and you can only grab a little bit at a time.

Meanwhile I was starting to worry. The snow was getting thicker and I didn't even know if Quantum had made it out. He's a stubborn guy. I'd witnessed that just yesterday. How many tries had it taken him to get out? Was he still stuck and messing around with the winch again? We had maybe an hour till dark.
I dumped the grass into the corral and apologized to the girls that it wasn't more. Hurrying back to the computer, I asked my mom to call RY. "I know he had to go there to get hay. If RY hasn't heard from him then we know he didn't make it out."

No answer at RY's house. Maybe he was helping Quantum put hay in the truck. Maybe he wasn't home. I was going to have to find out if Quantum had made it out the hard way.

"Look," I told Mom, "keep trying RY. If you get through to him, find out if Quantum came to get hay. If not, tell him to send out the St. Bernards."
"I could call the firehouse. Doesn't he work there?"
"He doesn't work there, he's a volunteer. But they should be able to contact him. If you don't get through to his house in a half hour, call the firehouse and tell them it's probably not an emergency, but let them get ahold of him. He's got a radio."
"Stay in touch with CK. I'll tell him to turn on his IMs."
 I grabbed a flashlight from CK (most of mine are low on batteries) and headed up the road.

The going was rough, since the easiest place to walk was in the tracks from the tires, and they're pretty narrow. It was somewhat warm though, especially since I'd bundled up, and as walks go, it wasn't a bad one.

By the time I got to the bottom of Bad Hill, I could tell Quantum had probably made it out. I didn't see any skids other than the ones we'd made yesterday, and the tracks went straight up the hill. "I'll keep going," I told myself, "with any luck, he'll be driving home and I can ride back."

The going up Bad Hill is nearly as challenging on foot as it is by car. I got to the top and noticed that our neighbor had plowed from his drive down toward the main road. "May as well keep going."

I made it halfway to the road when it started getting dark. "This is silliness. I'll just walk home." I turned on the flashlight and shined it behind me. I didn't need its light to see just yet, but I didn't want Quantum to run over me because he didn't notice me walking. The snow was still coming down, but lighter now.

By the time I got to the bottom of Bad Hill it was getting much darker. I started remembering that someone about 10 miles away had killed a cougar the other day. A young one, I'd been told. Which probably meant there was a mommy cat somewhere around. Or more yearling cubs.

I'd found scat from a big cat only a few weeks ago, while I was hunting the yaks. Probably just the bobcat I saw in September, but...

The flashlight was going dim. I shut it off when I was in pasture, and turned it back on when I got near the trees. I made it to the last place where we'd gotten stuck yesterday, and nearly slid in the mud. "He's never going to make it up that."

This was starting to feel like a bad move. Not going out to check on Quantum, but the extra quarter mile I'd walked in either direction, once I realized he'd made it over Bad Hill. The snow was reflective enough that I could see my way even with the flashlight half dead, but I wondered what could see me.  Several times I turned to look behind me and make sure I wasn't being followed.

Then there were the coyotes. I hadn't heard them howling since around Christmas. But where were they? Had they gone to another part of their range or were they just being quiet? I recalled reading about a woman in Canada or Vermont or somewhere, who'd been killed by a coyote pack. The only known case of an adult killed by coyotes. I didn't want to be the second.

Normally I'm not paranoid about wild critters. I love them, in fact. I'm comfortable in the woods, and animals don't scare me much. But tonight the dim flashlight and my worry about Quantum was playing with my head.

On the good side, the only tracks I'd seen had been those of elk and deer. And now I noticed some rabbit tracks crossing over the ones I'd made on my way out. "Good bunny! Hope you're staying warm."

I found the shortcut that saves a good fifteen minutes rather than following the driveway. The woods there were thick. Was it worth cutting across? I smacked at the flashlight and headed in.

By the time I got to CK's trailer, it was nearly full dark. I stumbled in.
"Sit down," CK said. Word from the wise: this is NOT the way to address a woman who's wondering where her husband is. I nearly had a heart attack.
"WHAT the?"
"No, no, I just meant you must be tired. Everything's okay. RY was in Denver. He got thru to your Mom. Quantum was at his place. He left about a half hour ago. He's going to park on the road and walk through the meadow. Go warm up in your trailer and I'll bring the dog over in fifteen minutes. By the way, we're out of gas for the generator. I have to shut down my computer. It's a gas hog. I've got the modem connected to the back-up batteries."

A half hour later there was still no sign of Quantum. If he was a half-hour behind me, he should have been there by now. I signed onto my computer to get Mom's side of the story. "Quantum says not to go out there again," she said. "It's a blizzard."
"Oh come on! I was just out there. It's a light snow. He should have been here by now. "
"I talked to him fifteen minutes ago. He said he'd be there in about an hour."
"That makes no sense! CK says you told him he left a half hour ago. So it wasn't 15 minutes ago he called you."
"No, he called me a second time."
"Okay, I'll give it a while longer."

An hour and a half later, still no Quantum. I didn't think we had a flashlight in the truck. What if Quantum had gotten lost in that mess? At least if I could shine the lantern for him to see, he'd know what direction to go in. I scrounged through the trailer for batteries and put them in a lantern, dragged the dog back over to CK's and headed out in the storm. By now it was a storm. Snow was hurtling past my eyes, and with the lantern light reflecting off it, I could barely see a foot or two in front of me.

I headed out toward the meadow that divides our land from our neighbor on the east. There are numerous crevasses and arroyos, and it took me a while to find the one closest to the meadow. I called Quantum's name. No answer but the patter of snow against my jacket.

I tried winding around another crevasse. This one was further away, but had a better lookout to the gully he'd be coming through. Still nothing.

Struggling back to the trailer, I opened my computer again. Mom wasn't online. Another friend was. "Look can you call my Mom and tell her to get the hell back on the computer?" Just then she came online again, but there was so much snow pouring off my hood onto the laptop that I couldn't move my mouse. "Ack, I told my friend. I can't get my cursor into her window. Can you tell her I think it's time to call the cops?"

I headed over to CK's trailer again, and told him to get the hell back online and give my mother that message also - in case my online buddy couldn't get through to her. Just then I caught the flash of a light in the darkness.

"Wait! I think that's him!" Back down to the crevasses in the meadow. I helped Quantum through the barbed wire of our neighbor's fence and we carried the few things he'd been able to bring with him.

Turns out, he'd gotten stuck far down the road, and RY had come out and dropped him off closer to our neighbors, causing the extra delay.

He hadn't been able to carry the hay, of course. Which left a whole new adventure for tomorrow.

Remind me why I moved where it snows?

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