Off Course, A True Tale of What Happened During The Snow Storm
“Come up to the barn.” “I have a present for you”. I decided to walk since it just started snowing those big, fat, wet flakes that cling to whatever they can as if they’re wanting to say, “Hi!” “Long time no see!” Did you miss me, huh huh, huh?” In that irritating yet cute way that some people come falling in our lives, know what I mean?
By the time I got to the barn, I was covered in friendly flakes. It made David laugh when he took a look at me. “Even your lashes are coated,” he exclaimed. “Stand right there.” “I’ll be back”, he said in his best Arnold voice. He stepped out of the barn and a few minutes later returned with a big styrofoam cooler; the kind food gets shipped in. It was about as big as a copier paper box and half as tall. “Come here; can you guess?”, he asked with a big grin. “You didn’t”, but he had. He had re-ordered my Valentine’s present.
Really, our Valentine’s present since we both love the luxurious items from the fancy mail order catalog he gets and makes a big production of hiding from me all the while telling the dogs, “Mommy’s presents are in here!” The first package arrived in time for Valentine’s day, but he was out of town so I decided to save the caviar, and chocolates until he came back in town. He would be pleasantly surprised that I had the willpower to wait for him, and besides, who doesn’t enjoy knowing that someone else wanted to share with them?
Five days later he returned. He wasn’t in the house two minutes before asking, “Is there any caviar and chocolates left?” I took him by the hand and led him into the kitchen where I had set up our plates. I reached for the two boxes of chocolates, and had already pulled the faux shagreen box out of the refrigerator. “I want chocolates first!” I pushed a box towards him, and said, “1, 2, 3!” and took off the lid from the one in front of me. The shock of seeing caviar tins in front of me, buckled my knees. He reached out and grabbed my elbow to steady me. He sort of laughed and said, “Let me guess, caviar in this one too.” Yes, I refrigerated the chocolates, and had left several hundred dollars worth of caviar on the shelf for 5 days. I just knew they were chocolates. I can’t begin to describe how bad I felt. I apologized up one side and down the other. He said that he would order more, but I begged him not too. The humiliation, not to mention the utter waste of money was too much. He didn’t mention it again, and I really thought he had forgotten about it. But, as he lifted the lid from the cooler, I realized he had done as he said, he had reordered everything. “Honey, the rep gave me a discount, and upgraded the chocolates to the larger one; it’s all good!” “Just take it to the house with you, and fix us up some of those fish eggs,” he teased.
I tucked the box under my arm, adjust the headlamp, and with little Minnie the black mutt terrier at my side, I headed back down to the house. Wow, the snow was really coming down now. I stood for a second to evaluate if I should maybe just wait on David and catch a ride down. He said he’d be another hour working on the new 4 wheeler he had bought. I reached up and adjusted the beam so it was directly in front of my toes, and off I went on the snowy driveway. In just 30 minutes of me being in the barn, the gravel was completely covered by 2” of those thick snowflakes that weren’t looking quite so friendly anymore. “Just keep your eyes on the light beam”, I thought. To look ahead into the snow storm made my eyes water uncontrollably since they were blowing in from a strong north wind. I figured out that if I followed a small line of gravels that were showing through the snow, I’d make it to the house no problem. I glanced at Minnie and said, ‘Man, girl, this is the longest walk tonight”. She looked up at me with snowflakes glistening on her nose. I stumbled. “What’s this?” A patch of orchard grass was slightly visible under the fast falling snow. “Huh?”
How did that happen? I wasn’t on the driveway anymore. But the gravels, they were…right…there. Only they weren’t gravels, but tufts of grass once I took a minute to make them out. “Oh my gosh, what have I done, Minnie?” The little dog looked at me. I had really screwed up. Somehow I was off the driveway in a blinding snow unable to see the motion-sensitive barn lights if they were even still on, nor the house lights. I hadn’t turned on the porch lights, because I liked to see the warm glow of the candles I had lit throughout the house. “Minnie, Mommy’s a real idiot”. Thinking it was only going to be a few minutes, I had left about 8 candles burning throughout the first floor. I couldn’t see their glow. I couldn’t see anything even with the headlamp except zinging white streaks of snow where the light was distorting their free falls. I readjusted the box under my arm. Daydreaming about dinner, this gift, the snow, somehow I had wandered into the field. Which field? The one that flattens out at the top and ends with the fence line? Or, the one that ends with a 60 foot plunge to the bottom? I unbuckled my Elmer Fudd hat, and moved one of the ear flaps so I could maybe hear some noise to help me get back on track. Nothing. Nothing, but the soft sound of snow falling with an urgency to the earth. “Waaaheeee, yip, yip, yip”. “Seriously?” “Coyotes on top of everything?” And, that was all I heard a pack calling back and forth with their other worldly cries. “Haheeee, yip, yip, yip,” “Waaaaheeeee, waaahooooo” I could swear they were getting closer. Minnie looked at me and whined.
She took off at a trot, turned around and looked at me. “Get back here, girl”. “You’re gonna get lost, or eaten”. She trotted back, and looked up at me. I looked over her to see if maybe I could follow my boot tracks back, they were already erased by the new snow fall. My mind was going so fast. I could wait on David’s truck. The headlight beams would light up the sky and I would be able to navigate back. But, he had said he would be an hour, and sometimes his hour turns into two or three hours. Plus, because I wasn’t paying attention, I really didn’t know how long I had been out here. I glanced at my sleeve, the snow was about 1/2” thick so I knew it had been awhile.
I had watched enough Little House On The Prairie growing up to know that you didn’t just start walking in the middle of a snow storm. That pack of coyotes started up again. I had seen a big red male run across the driveway about a week ago. In fact, with the little snow falls that had happened over the last few weeks, I could see that the mid point of the drive was their pass through area down to the lake and beyond to the woods. Were they moving to get to the caves down by the creek? Would they be scared of me, a woman in a 15 year old ski jacket with a box of caviar and chocolates tucked under her arm? “Ouch!” Minnie had nipped my leg. Mmmuumymmm”, she whined, and trotted off looking over her shoulder like, “Come on”. “Get back here!” “Don’t leave me, I mean it.” I was in no position to be issuing threats, but I was getting more frightened. The snow was coming down so fast now, Minnie’s back was covered. Standing still didn’t seem like a smart idea, but walking and not knowing what direction I was going in didn’t seem particularly brilliant either. For a brief second, I hated country life.
Not a light in sight, not a sound but the wildlife, not a car honk, not a single noise except the snow silently falling all around me. “Daggonit, stop nipping me!” I yelled. It was like yelling while pulling a sweater over your head. Muffled, muted, and suppressed. Minnie stuck her paw up and laid it against my boot. She twisted her little head to the side like she was trying to read my thoughts. She took off again, and did a little half twist in the air. ‘No, sweetie.’ I stepped towards her. ‘Okay, I think I did a 180 just now so wouldn’t that take me back the way we came?’ Yes, probably if I hadn’t turned at all, but I had turned several times trying to get my bearings. And, dang it, there were those coyotes again howling and yipping.
I walked a few more steps, and listened. Nothing. Minnie was a solid six feet in front of me. If she went any further, I wouldn’t be able to see her at all. Is this a blizzard? I mean, I can’t see anything. Minnie came back, whined, and took off again. ‘Okay, girl, you’re the leader.’ ‘God knows, I got us into this, and you’re gonna get us out’, I joked. She was scuttling across the snow. My breath was ragged as I tried to keep her in my headlamp beam. She stopped, turned to the left, turned back to me, and ran back standing in front of me. “Now what?” She headed to the right. My anxiety was turning into full blown panic. ‘Don’t panic, don’t panic,” I repeated over and over. ‘Panic is weakness.’ ‘Panic is having lost control.’ ‘I am in control’. I really didn’t care that I was saying this out loud. At this point, what did it matter? Then I laughed out loud at the stupidity of myself, I wasn’t in control, I had turned any thread of control over to this little mutt terrier just trotting there in front of the headlamp beam. ‘Minnie, wait!’
I looked off into the distance. I closed my eyes, and opened them fast. Yes, a faint glow in the distance. ‘Minnie, I think you did it!’ The glow became greater as we made our way down the slight slope of the drive. I’m not even sure if it was the drive since the field has the same pitch to it. Whatever, the case, we were heading toward the house. ‘Whew, thank God I haven’t burned the house down!’ ‘Better not thank him yet, could be the glow of a house fire for all I know, laughing a little under my breath.
Nothing was going up in flames. All was as I had left it; 8 candles glowing, dinner in the slow cooker, happy house doggies jumping around my legs, and little Minnie, the runt from Holly. Holly, who had shown up pregnant with pups due any week now the Vet had said, scared, in a snow storm five years ago.
Little Miss Minnie had saved me, had gotten me back on track, and safely down to the house. ‘Should I tell David?’ Probably not a good idea since the Valentine’s incident was still fresh in his mind. No need in having him question my mental state any more than necessary. I handed Minnie a treat, gave her a good old rub on the head, and whispered, ‘What happened in the snow storm, stays in the snow storm, got it?’ She looked up at me, and I swear to you, she winked.