The day began at 5:15 a.m. when the phone rang.
After receiving so many annoying middle-of-the-night "technical support" calls, we're inclined to ignore a ringing phone before 6 a.m. But this time, sleepily, I heard a neighbor's voice record something downstairs on the answering machine.
I got up and dressed, and happen to notice, across the black expanse of snow in our front yard, unusual lit-up highlights. We don't have lights out here -- no street lamps or porch lights -- so I wondered where that light came from.
Downstairs, both girls were already up, having heard the content of the message on the answering machine. "Call S.," said Older Daughter. "D. is stuck in the snow halfway down the road." (D and S are our neighbors, and D drives a snowplow for the state. He was just finishing up a ten-hour graveyard shift when he got stuck coming home. Ironically, the law does not allow him to plow his own road, since it's a private road.)
I looked out the window, and sure enough D.'s pickup truck was stalled on the road a quarter-mile away. It was his headlights which accounted for the odd highlights on the otherwise dark front lawn.
The wind had whipped snow around all night and, as it turns out, had whipped not just the road shut, but our driveway as well.
I woke up Don, who stumbled out of bed and went outside in the cold and wind to plug in the engine block heater on the tractor. Then he called D. to invite him to come in for a hot drink until he could get the tractor started, but D. said he was fine in his truck.
However as daylight eased over the land, it swiftly became apparent no one was going anywhere. The road and everyone's lengthy driveways were drifted shut. We were all snowed in, all four sets of neighbors who live beyond where D. got stuck.
Here's D.'s truck in the bottom-middle distance.
Here's a zoom-in shot. (By this point D. had abandoned the vehicle and walked home. He needed sleep after ten straight middle-of-the-night hours plowing snow.)
When the wind whips up snow around here, it whips it fast and deep. Our driveway was completely closed in with two solid feet of snow, with some higher drifts over that.
I walked down the driveway...correction, I waded down the driveway, sinking up to my knees with every step.
Here's a better view of D.'s truck. The snow in the foreground is about three feet deep.
Don climbed aboard the tractor and started bucketing out the driveway. It took him three hours of solid work to get through 300 feet.
This is what the driveway looked like when he was done. Buckets aren't plows, so it was rough but passable.
But this is the sight that greeted him at the end of the driveway -- and D.'s truck was still a quarter-mile away.
Snowdrifts can be very artistic -- unless you need to drive through them, of course.
Here's the road looking right.
Here's the road looking left, with D.'s truck in the distance.
Here's a neighbor, also snowed in, who had walked over to see how badly the truck was stuck. The dog, a half-grown lab, was having the time of her life.
Yep, no one was going anywhere for awhile.
Soon we noticed yet another neighbor (with his 10-year-old daughter) who pulled behind D. on his little ATV with a plow attachment. He started to dig D. out ... and got stuck.
So they hiked to our house and warmed themselves up for a few minutes, then Don pulled together numerous shovels and they hiked back to free the ATV.
Then Don got back on the tractor and tackled the road. He spent several hours bucketing snow as best he could.
When he got most of the snow out of the way, he came back and fetched me to help tow D.'s truck out with the tractor.
Even with the combined efforts of the ATV plow and our tractor, D. was still well and truly stuck.
I climbed into the cab (D. had left the keys in the ignition) while Don attached a tow strap between the tractor and the truck.
It took several minutes of vigorous yanking before the truck broke free.
I parked the truck opposite our driveway (since beyond our driveway, the road was still drifted shut)...
...while Don continued bucketing out snow beyond where D. got stuck. Incidentally, the reason he put so much work into clearing the road is he had an obligation in a nearby town at 5 pm.
At long last, we heard a most welcome sound: the put-put-roar of a bulldozer operated by yet another neighbor, who had come to plow everyone out.
By the time this neighbor was finished, the sun was going down with a calm innocence that belied the hectic, frenzied work that went into fighting the wind-whipped snow the blessed day long.
I tried to get into the garden to take pictures, but sank up to my thighs again and again and gave up before even getting to the gate.
But at least things were calm and peaceful in our neck of prairie by sunset.
I took Lydia walking at dusk, and you'd never guess the road had been the site of an eight-hour battle.
Country living: sometimes difficult, never dull.
But you can see why it's important for neighbors to help each other out.