A friend of mine told me that I should write about the epic snow storm that hit Colorado recently because it would make a good blog. I jokingly told her that reading about me whining and crying because I thought I was stranded on my property until mid-June really wouldn’t make for great reading. So here it is.
Lisa, this one is for you, my dear friend!
“I will not get stuck. I will not get stuck.”
I have heard these words in my mind again and again. This has been my mantra for well over a week now, and I believe it will continue to be until at least mid-June. Between the snow and mud left in the wake of the cyclone snow bomb that hit Colorado last week, if I get my car or my little tractor stuck, it’s safe to say that I won’t be going anywhere for a long, long time. And believe me when I tell you that I have plenty of snow and mud.
The month of March has offered its fair share of challenges and sadness. March 1 is my late husband’s birthday, a day that I always find myself reflecting on what might have been. I think about what our lives would be like if he was still here, and I often wonder what he thinks of my life now and if he approves of the direction and course I have chosen thus far.
The “horse” life I have chosen isn’t for everyone, and plenty of people have told me that I am crazy and that I should be doing other things. Even my husband had his doubts when he was alive. He liked the horses and enjoyed them, but he was interested in having a couple of horses and not making a lifestyle out of it. My dream has always been a bit different, and now I am trying to live that dream on my own, something that has proven to be challenging at times.
Raising horses isn’t easy. It is the type of work that never ends, something non-horse or non-animal people do not understand. You don’t get to stay inside because of the storm. There are no “snow days.” You don’t get days off. You will have the privilege of working on Christmas day, and if you’re not feeling well or made the mistake of having too many brews with your friends the night before, too bad. Your horses need you and their care comes first. Horses require a lot of sacrifice, and they are not an endeavor to be taken lightly.
That being said, I had been watching the news and knew the storm rolling in would be a bad one, but I do confess that it ended up being far worse than I ever imagined. I went to town the day before and loaded up on grain, shavings, and other supplies and did my usual storm preparations in the barn area. The storm started on Tuesday night with intense rain, which eventually froze, leaving the ground covered in a solid sheet of ice several inches thick, then quickly turned to blizzard conditions with hurricane force winds. It was a virtual white out for most of the storm, creating treacherous conditions that went on and on for well over 36 hours.
During this time, I had to make many treks to the barn and paddocks and back to the house. Although I have water tank heaters, the severity of the storm kept freezing the top of the water tanks, so it was necessary to keep breaking the ice for the outside horses as well as trying to make sure they had access to their feed. The latter task became impossible as the storm went on because of the total and complete loss of visibility. More than once, I would have cried upon reaching the barn and paddock area had my face and tear ducts not been completely frozen.
When mid-morning hit on Thursday and there was finally some visibility, I was looking out upon a sea of snow with wave after wave of giant drifts between my house and the barn area. I was snowed in. Literally. There was no getting in or out of my property any time soon! It was an obstacle course I wasn’t sure how to handle, but I knew I needed to figure it out because the horses needed me. I looked to one of the paddocks and panic set in when I couldn’t see one of the horse shelters because it was buried in snow.
I took a deep breath as I headed outside to tackle mother nature’s obstacle course. My dogs, Cody and Max, bounded outside with enthusiasm and jumped into the snow drifts, snow flying into the air as they leapt and ran from drift to drift. If only it were as easy for me. It is probably less than 300 feet to walk from my house to the barn area; it felt like 3 miles as I tried to navigate my way through the giant drifts, almost getting myself stuck multiple times when I would take a step and find myself buried to my waist and stomach. I found myself wishing I could attach a sled to Cody and Max and let them pull me around like the poor little dog “The Grinch” had.
When I made it to the paddock area, I was able to see the two horses in the paddock with the shelter buried in snow. They were in another shelter in the paddock area where the snow had not drifted as much and seemed fine. However, one of their hay feeders was completely buried in snow, so my first priority was getting hay to them and making sure they had access to water by breaking the ice on their water tank, yet again.
In my brilliance before the storm, and I am using “brilliance” here rather loosely and with sarcasm, I had used my tractor to place hay for the outside horses and had left my hay moving apparatus on my tractor. Unfortunately, where I left my tractor bucket had a five-foot snow drift in front of it, making it difficult to try to get the bucket on the tractor and start digging myself out. A friend of mine came over, something that was no small feat with the terrible road conditions and lack of access on many of the usual roads to get here, including the road and driveway into my house. He had to walk part of the way into my place or risk getting his truck stuck. He helped me get to the tractor bucket and get it on the tractor. I am truly grateful for his help. Unfortunately, at this point it was late afternoon and I needed to clean stalls and feed, so I wasn’t able to start digging out right away. The wind was also continuing to drift the snow, so it would have been a pointless task anyway. But at least I knew I could start working my way out the following day, which was comforting and offered me a glimmer of hope.
The next day, I went outside and went to work. Everywhere I looked, it was snow and more snow. There was so much that it seemed insurmountable for me and my little tractor. I started working on one of the large snow drifts that was keeping me trapped from the outside world. After 4 hours of digging, frustration got the best of me and I started to cry. It was hopeless. I had only made it about 4 or 5 feet through the giant drift. I was getting nowhere at the slowest speed humanly possible. My feet were freezing and I desperately needed a cup of coffee, so I went inside and poured myself a large Irish coffee and had a good cry.
What was I doing, anyway? What was the point? Why am I trying to live a life meant for two people by myself? I found myself questioning my goals and dreams as I cried. Finally, as I looked upon the giant, white sea of frustration that was laid out before me, the realization hit me that I needed to put my pride aside and issue an SOS call for help. I didn’t have to do this alone. I am blessed to live in a small town where people still wave, say hello to one another, and help one another out when it is needed.
I am very pleased to say my pleas for help were answered by two wonderful men that I consider good friends. The first young man farms my wheat field for me and helps me keep my horses fed all winter by selling me hay. He came over with his much larger tractor and cleared my road, driveway, and a path to the barn and around the house so that I can get in and out, providing I can navigate the mud, which is now the biggest challenge.
On Sunday, another good friend came and helped clear the paddocks in the barn area so the horses can move freely, barn doors can be opened, and I can move hay into some of the paddocks that were blocked with giant drifts of snow. One paddock was completely buried in snow, literally trapping three horses in the barn. It was beautiful to see their happiness and excitement once I could finally get the barn doors open and let them outside in their paddock. I felt the same excitement when I was finally able to drive to town on Monday and have a change of scenery for a few hours.
As I was driving home from town, my SUV packed from floor to ceiling with horse supplies and groceries, I found myself lost in thought. I remembered the excitement of buying my first horse and the happiness I have found since being able to call this place my home. As I drove through the beautiful countryside that surrounds my place, I was mindful of the fact that I chose this life and although it isn’t glamorous or easy, it is mine, and most days, I really do love and enjoy what I have built here with my horses and my lovely dogs.
It’s easy to lose sight of goals and dreams with twelve-foot snow drifts standing in front of them. Perhaps “Seasonal Affective Disorder” is for real. The storm made me realize that I shouldn’t allow myself to get stuck, be it in snow, mud, or in my mind. It’s time to stop spinning my wheels in self-doubt and negative thoughts and get myself out of the mud. I can do this, and I will. One way or another, I will be okay.
From this point forward, I will do my best not to lose sight of life’s blessings in the face of insurmountable snow and mud.
“I will not get stuck. I will not get stuck.”
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