Monday, February 8, 2010

A litle snirt doesn't compare

If the weather forecasters are correct we'll be looking at snirt in a few days, you know, dirty snow. I think new-fallen fluffy snow is beautiful, for a day. It stills the town, insulates us in our homes, gives us pause to write, journal, reflect, and in my case, eat. I graze when I am trapped indoors.

I'm not afraid of the predicted four-five inches of snow on the way. I lived in Alaska in 1969, and the winter was rather mild, a few snowfalls, not a lot of accumulating snow. We experienced one blizzard, and I mean I experienced it. That night as the blizzard fiercely raged, there was a knock on the door about 10:00 p.m. A soldier stood in the biting wind, the furry hood of his army parka zipped in a tight circle. The blackness of his face blended with the pitch dark night. I couldn't tell it was Charles Washington until he came indoors and begged us to drive him to the airport, 105 miles away in Fairbanks. He told us his wife was scheduled for emergency surgery, and he had to get home.

We foolishly agreed. That night we inched our way on a snowpacked, ice covered two lane highway in a blinding blizzard. Three and ahalf hours later, when we arrived in Fairbanks we were exhausted and also broke, no money for a hotel, no credit card, nothing but a few bucks for gasoline. Charles bought tire chains for the car, but when it's fifty below zero, and you can only get one on, and you're young, you think that one will suffice. After dropping Charles at the airport, we drove to the army base in town. They had no provision for soldier's dependents, would not allow wives to stay in the barracks, but offered my ex a bed. He was due for madatory duty at 7:00 a.m. so we headed back, exhausted. On our return trip, we got stuck on an icy mountain road, fifty feet from the top. After several attempts of reversing down the mountain and trying to get enough traction to make it over the top, we got stuck. My ex applied his full weight to the brake pedal, yet every so often the '60 Chevy would jerk and slide nearer and nearer to the edge of the cliff. No guardrails. Periodically I'd hold my breath then whisper a prayer as that hunk of metal inched closer and closer. We had a full tank of gas and a warm heater. I was six months pregnant and all we had in the car was a can of Coke. At 3:00 a.m. I came up with a bright idea; immediately my ex vetoed it. Slowly and with as little movement as possible, I reached into the back seat for that soda. I opened the car door and held tight as my feet went out from under me. I clung to the rear quarter panel, crept on my knees, and I prayed we wouldn't be rear ended by a semi. During the night, two had passed us, one from the rear and one head on, but neither could stop to assist. I regained my balance and made my way to the passenger side rear tire. I poured that can of Coke behind the wheel and clawed my way back into the car, hoping that my movement wouldn't cause the car to lurch. "Reverse and gun it!" I yelled. My ex took his foot off the brake and the car cocked straight backwards instead of sideways. The right rear wheel hit that saucer-sized patch of pavement melted by the Coke. He floored the accelerator. The engine whined, the tires spun, and finally gripped that small patch of bare asphalt. The chain dug away at that patch of ice and exposed more of the pavement. I prayed aloud as we finally crested that mountain after being stranded for almost two hours.

The most outstanding thing that I remember is on the other side of the mountain, the blizzard completely susbsided, the stillness was eerie; the canopy of stars and the blanket of white lit up the land like daybreak. It was a surreal moment, an unbelievable experience as the car thumped-thumped-thumped, that one tire chain music to my ears. We made it home in time for my ex to climb into his winter woolen fatigues and drive to Ft. Greely to report for duty.

Oh, when you're young and dumb! My parents used to say, "God watches over ignorant and foolish people." I know He was with us that night.


Bookie said...

Wow, what a story!!! I would never have thought of the Coke...what gave you the idea? Well, I guess "everything GOES better with Coke"! Why did it not freeze instead of melt the snow? Just not enough but did eventually?

Tammy said...

No kidding...gripping story!!! No wonder you hate snow!!!

Pat Wahler said...

Scarey moments! You are so right. When young we're invincible, we know more than anyone else (just ask us), and think nothing of taking the most foolish risks imaginable.

Then we grow up.

Linda O'Connell said...

I was desparate, and the other option was waiting hours for daylight and chancing a truck wiping us out, as this was the day of the pipeline going in and there were constant trucks. However, those guys were all smart enough not to travel. It was a frightening experience and the soda did refreeze, but as soon as I saw pavement, I had him rock that jalopy and it kept chewing at the dissolving ice/snow until we could get traction.

Lynn said...

Wow Linda.