Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Snow Days


        As I sit at my computer today, watching the snow turn my woods into a winter wonderland, I’m reminded of snow days past.
The earliest one that I remember was in the late 1950s. It stands out simply because it occurred in late March or early April, and the day before, I had been sitting on my porch steps in a short-sleeved shirt. That’s Alabama for you.
The next one I recall was in January 1977. In a framed montage on my office wall I have a picture from that one. It shows my late husband, Jack, wrapped in his Navy pea coat, wearing a denim cap and the scarf my first sister-in-law made for him, and striped pants. He’s holding onto a rope attached to what appears to be a garbage can lid upon which my five-year-old daughter, Heather, is seated. She, too is bundled in a hooded coat. I love that father-daughter picture.
How could I forget the Storm of the Century, in 1993, that shut down the entire Birmingham metropolitan area, and then some, for several days? We were without power for at least five of those days, so we had no heat. There were four of us by then, and we slept on quilts in the living room of our Homewood house. Every couple of hours Jack got up and add more wood to the fire in the fireplace. That fireplace had no damper, so most of the heat was escaping through the chimney. Next morning, Jack took a thermometer outside, and discovered only a few degrees difference between our living room and our front yard.
I think that was the same snow that threatened to devour my Yorkshire terrier, T.J. He was so small, and the snow so deep and soft, that he almost disappeared into it every time he went out to wee-wee. I have a video to back that up.
During a big snow a couple of years ago, I messed up a really good cookie sheet using it as a sled. My Ashville driveway is steep, and I just knew I was going to wind up hitting a tree or my pond. As usual, I only stayed outside for half an hour. I love snow best when viewing it from inside the house. 
It’s snowing heavily now, but with the ground so damp, who knows how long it will stick? I’m prepared, though. My propane tank was filled Monday. My horses are wearing blankets and I turned on their stall heat lamps. I bought extra hay yesterday. I also bought gasoline for my portable generator. That generator is the best insurance I’ve ever purchased against a power outage, because there hasn’t been one in the year and a half that I’ve had it. But I bought gasoline, just in case.
There are plenty of leftovers in the fridge, including come crock-pot barbecued ribs and some red beans and rice. I went by Ashville Drugs a little while ago and picked up a prescription. I also went into the Pig for some limes so I won’t get snowed in without a margarita. Somehow, despite the dropping temperature, ice cream managed to find its way into my cart, too.

       Snow or no snow, it’s all the same to me. I’ll be watching through the windows in my office. I’ve got deadlines to meet. So go ahead, Mother Nature, bring it on. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

View from my from porch.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Other Than That, Mrs. Lincoln, How Did You Enjoy The Play?

        Drinking my morning coffee, I watched the mist settle over Lake Martin at Wind Creek State Park.  A small fishing boat glided silently out of the mist. With a fisherman standing at the front, it reminded me of a carving on the prow of an ancient Viking ship.
It was the first full weekend of February, one of the last sunny days before this Siberian storm settled over the Eastern half of the country. Scratching my tick bites, I reflected on the events of the previous day. It had been perfect weather for trail riding. But neither my pony, Jazzy, nor my friend, Betty, were perfect for the treacherous trails we encountered. It had been 16 years since Betty had been on a horse. I doubt that Jazzy had ever been trail riding with other horses. We thought we could whip both into shape with two half-hour spins through my own woods during the week. It took a trip to the emergency room to see the flaws in our thinking.
My OutbackTrail Riders club had scheduled a day ride at Wind Creek, but like many in the club, I have a horse trailer with living quarters and decided to make a weekend of it. Betty came up from Tallahassee, Florida, to join me. 
We left around 1 p.m. Friday so we could set up camp before dark. We easily found the horse camping section that the trail club secretary had mentioned in the newsletter and several emails. We noticed right off, however, that there was only one other horse camper there, the sites weren’t pull-throughs, and there wasn’t much room to park the horses. I had to back my 22-foot gooseneck into position, something I hate, but with Betty directing, I managed. We put up a picket line on uneven ground between two trees, and tied the horses to it.
Saturday morning, I started making phone calls to determine where riders were supposed to meet. It turned out that we were in the wrong camp site. The club secretary had sent out old information, and everyone but me knew it. Others were in the overflow section, which had a big field for picket lines and temporary fencing, and camp sites that you could pull into. We missed the fish fry and fellowship of Friday night because of this misinformation. 
We were but a short distance from the others, but the park wouldn’t let us ride the roads, so we were to meet them on the trail. I’m directionally challenged, especially in unknown woods, so a nice day rider came and got us. However, his trailer was smaller than what my horses are used to, so it took 30 minutes to load them.
Fortunately, no one was ready to ride out at the usual 9:30, because they had stayed up late partying the night before. We rode out about 10:30, and I could see almost immediately that the trail would be a challenge for Jazzy and Betty. Both were huffing and puffing in just a few minutes of hill climbing. We stopped to rest several times, but I was still worried about Jazzy. She was sweating profusely. I had planned on turning back at lunch, but thought it might be sooner. 
Shortly after lunch we encountered problems. Trees were down in several places, forcing us to climb incredibly steep hills to get around the debris. Then Jazzy got her hind legs caught in some vines, bucked, and Betty came off. She landed with a thud, the breath knocked out of her. A rider radioed friends who were fishing, and they came into the slew at the bottom of the hill and picked her up in their boat. When I got back to camp, a park ranger came by to tell me I owed more money, also the result of misinformation, then offered to call an ambulance. We readily agreed.
Fortunately, the emergency room x-rays showed nothing broken or cracked, and my friend got a prescription for pain killers. After having the Rx filled, we headed back to camp. Even though she urged me to ride the next day, I knew the Saturday day rider wasn’t available to pick me up Sunday and I didn’t trust my GPS skills to find the other riders on the trail. So we stayed in camp. 
We’re planning another trip, once my tick bites heal, the swelling in Betty’s knee goes down and she gets over the pneumonia, which I suspect was a direct result of bruised ribs not allowing her to breathe deeply. Jazzy needs more trail practice, too, and so does Betty. Hers may have to wait until she has that knee operation. Jazzy’s will have to wait until warmer weather.
         All in all, it was still a good weekend.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Making Memories

I had a treehouse built for my grandsons recently. It has a sleeping loft for camping out. The loft was as much for me as for my grandsons, because I’ve always been enchanted with the idea of sleeping on a second floor.
Gabe and I have slept in it twice already.The first time was over Thanksgiving weekend. The treehouse, which is actually a playhouse built on stilts between two trees, wasn’t quite finished then. So we had to put a tarp over an open wall section. We ran an extension cord through a window to operate a small heater.
The ladder to the loft hadn’t been built, but the workmen had left a step-ladder. It was rather unstable, and I fell a few rungs from the bottom. Gabe became very concerned and insisted that I sleep on the main level because he was afraid that I would fall when I got up to use the camping potty during the night. He and his friend, Walker, slept in the loft, and I slept down below. The window we ran the cord through wouldn’t stay closed, and we all nearly froze to death. Despite a two-inch exercise mat under my sleeping bag, the wooden floor beneath me felt like bricks. None of us slept much, but we had fun. Oh, and the boys got up to pee twice during the night, while I didn’t go at all.
Last weekend, I had Matias, who is almost three, Thursday night and Friday. We had a tea party in the treehouse. We sat at a toddler-sized picnic table that had belonged to my 42-year-old daughter when she was about six. We used a pink plastic Fisher-Price tea set that had belonged to Matias’s mom when she wasn’t much older then he is now. Friday afternoon, I swapped the toddler for Gabe, because he and I had riding lessons at my house the next day. So Saturday night, Gabe, Walker and I camped out in the treehouse again. The use of the phrase “camped out” instead of “slept” is intentional.
I cut a hole in the wall beneath a window at floor level, using a drill bit meant for cutting doorknob holes. We ran the heavy-duty extension cord through that and I had the heater blowing on me all night, but it didn’t do much good. I had purchased a new sleeping bag for Gabe and a self-inflating mat to go under my sleeping bag for padding. The latter didn’t inflate, so once again I felt like I was sleeping on concrete.
The boys were determined to stay up all night playing games on my iPad, but they didn’t quite make it. They got up to pee twice, but went out on the porch and used the yard as their toilet. The zipper in my sleeping bag was broken, but I had an extra blanket over the bag, so I wasn’t cold. The boys wound up sleeping together in Gabe’s new sleeping bag because Walker’s wasn’t warm enough. They also had a wool blanket over them, so they were toasty. 
The bottom line, though, is that we still didn’t get much sleep. But that wasn’t the object. We were making memories. We do that a lot. I’ve found that it doesn’t take much to make memories with your grandchildren. Sometimes, it requires a little creativity, but mainly it requires your time. When all is said and done, that’s what they really want anyway. And I believe that spending time together will outlive, or at least outweigh, the memories of  what we actually do.