Friday, February 15, 2013

S'no Fun!

S'NO  FUN!  
                                                            Originally published in Horse Directory, March 2013

By Tom Gumbrecht

DannyBoy plowing snow..
The winter storm they were calling “Nemo” was predicted with the normal Weather Channel adjectives such as “storm of the century”, “apocalyptic “, and the now familiar “superstorm”.  By Friday afternoon I had begun to take it seriously. I had moved my grain pickup day to Thursday from Saturday, started the snow blower and generator, and picked up diesel fuel for the tractor; almost as an afterthought, I did as much grocery shopping as one can do at Dairy Barn.

By 7:00 p.m. I did preliminary passes with the snow blower on the house driveway until a shear pin broke on the machine. Pelted by sleet and windblown snow, I opted to put it away and fire up the forty year old Kubota 4WD tractor parked under the canopy and warmed with an electric block heater.  It had never let me down, and tonight was no exception.  There was about 4” of wet slushy stuff down already, and now it was being frosted by fluffy white stuff.  I put the tractor away feeling satisfied that I had gotten a head start on the job I would be doing tomorrow.

I guess I know how I'm spending my weekend..
At 9:00 p.m. I walked down to the barn to do night check, and my hard work had already been defaced by Mother Nature.  It was hard to tell where I had plowed not two hours ago. I made the decision to lock my horses in their stalls overnight, something I hadn’t done since the night of Hurricane Sandy;  the last time previous to that, I don’t remember.  A few small branches were snapping already and knowing that to be a sound which to a horse means “run”, I decided to play it safe as the paddocks were already quite slippery.

Mary was still at her job as an RN at a hospital in Nassau County, and at 11:00 p.m. the snow was already a foot deep and our street had not yet seen a plow; I let her know that I didn’t think it was safe to travel. She agreed and set up a cot in her office, sleeping as best she could in the midst of hospital activity. When I awoke on Saturday morning, I was a bit shocked to see the snow almost to the top of the three foot fence outside my window.  I dressed and let the dogs out and they promptly disappeared into the drifts into the back yard, bounding along like rocks skipping on an undulating ocean of white. In their enthusiasm, they didn’t even want to come back in to eat breakfast.  Bundling up, I grabbed a shovel and made my way to the barn, a 30 minute ordeal to go 200 feet. While on my trek, I wondered whether anyone who cares for horses on a regular basis truthfully likes snow.  I’m not sure I have ever met that person.

The tractor "shed" falls to Nemo..
My horses were as happy as ever to see me, perhaps a bit more so due to the unavoidably late breakfast. After preparing their feed, and giving hay and water and mucking their stalls, I set about to plan my attack on the great white tsunami that had inundated my little horse farm.  That would involve somehow freeing my tractor from the collapsed canopy that had enveloped it overnight.  After an hour shoveling snow from the canopy roof,  I was able to crawl in and start the tractor, and raise the bucket to lift the roof off of it. Fortunately I found a post and stood it underneath the ridge pole which allowed me to back the tractor out.  Moving snow of this depth with a small farm tractor is a long process, and as the minutes turned to hours I had to remind myself how at age 13, I would have killed for the opportunity to spend a day moving snow with a tractor.  That thought made my job easier for a while, but ten hours on a tractor in the snow can make even the most enthusiastic smile wane.

Thankful for my 1970 Kubota.4WD tractor.
In all, I spent 17 hours moving snow on the weekend of Nemo, made easier on the second day by friends Joanne and Dan lending a hand for half a day on Sunday.  It occurred to me that while I can sometimes secretly resent the twenty minutes it takes to dig someone out of a snow bank from an ill-advised attempt of driving up our unplowed hill, I have not ever once, felt even the slightest tinge of resentment, despair or exasperation in spending two full days to make it possible to continue to supply the most basic services to my horses.  They wake up to two and a half feet of snow and think, seemingly, “Oh, so I guess that’s what today will be.  Walking around in deep snow; that’s fine”.  They have taught me to begin to think the same way, although I sometimes learn slowly.

I think now that I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend a harsh winter in rough board with a leased horse prior to having my own barn. It gave me the confidence to branch off the road of the rider and enter the road that leads to horsemanship. While I may not have reached my destination I’m still travelling that road, and I seem to never tire of the scenery.

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1 comment:

  1. Devotion means being able to plow through any weather, especially weather as abundant as snowfall, and know that even without the familiar nicker of "thank you" it is still a job well done.I think you have summed it up. In sub-freezing temps there can be no warmer feeling than caring for those you love.