Copyright 2021 by Lew Goddard
was time to go for more grub.
sounded like an easy endeavour, but it would take the better part of
the day and perhaps overnight. The weather wasn’t cooperating
and it was beginning to snow.
reside some fourteen miles from the city where I would shop for
groceries. Just me and my big old cat, Major. He appears to be an
unusual breed because he is huge. His fur is a cross between gold and
orange. He often eats rabbits that he actually catches, then
disappears for a couple of days to digest his meal. That gives you an
idea of how large he is. If a bear comes through the yard Major will
chase it but, if the bear turns on him, he immediately retreats.
it wasn’t much of a structure that I had built last summer. It
was a single large lower room floor plus a loft with a sleeping bag
and a down filled overthrow. When I was ambitious, I lifted the
weights stored beside my bed to keep my muscles in tone. The walls
were covered with clear plastic sheeting on both sides to keep the
fibtreglass insulation in place. The roof was made of heavy-duty
black roofing plastic. My home is located on the North bank of the
was never any need to have heat in the summer but, winter was
naturally different in tis far northern country. A kitchen was
situated on the east side of the house with a wall that separated it
from the working area. My classic chromed kitchen stove occupied the
spot against the intervening wall. It was placed there so that a
fail-safe chimney could be installed next to the ridge pole.
the north west corner of the work area, a make shift heater was
constructed of a 45-gallon steel barrel. Asbestos provided the
foundation and it was raised about ten inches above the floor. I took
advantage of the sheet of asbestos and provided an angled barrier
behind the heater. Of course, a pipe was fastened to the west wall
and out with fire protection equipment.
seems I have become side tracked and the subject of food came back to
mind. Looking out one of the south front windows, I see it is still
snowing and the temperature is down a couple of degrees. Tomorrow
might be better.
adjourned to my work area and re-started the “heater” as
I called it. Couldn’t get too close when it became red hot. Oh,
but it was comfortable.
income came from a pension but for further money and to keep me sane,
I manufactured wooden rocking chairs, gun cabinets and spinning
wheels to name a few items of extreme care. Today found me creating a
rocking chair. It was made from wood from all over the world and
there wouldn’t be a nail or screw in it. Every bit of wood had
to be shaped so that when it was meticulously mastered, it would
never fall apart. Colors abounded from white to red, to brown to even
black wood was used. It wasn’t unusual to spend a half day
sanding and measuring a small section that I could hold in my hand.
Then I would likely have to use brute force to place it where it was
designed to fit. My customer contracted sixteen hundred dollars
American currency. Sound like a lot? No, it didn’t after
spending four to five months to happily display it to said customer,
the window I noted that the snow had nearly given up and it might
clear before night. That meant that it would be colder than blazes.
Speaking of blazes, I would have to rise out of bed a number of times
to keep the fires blazing.
was still black dark when I rose at about six in the morning to get a
good start for my cold journey.
transportation to the city is by horseback. The mare is my favorite
ride and the gelding usually didn’t have to work very hard. The
mare’s name was Annie and the stallion is Buck.
I left, chunks of hard coal were placed in the kitchen stove burner
and that should keep some warmth in the house even though I may have
to be away overnight. The next morning, everything would be frozen. I
guess you could call it “my freezer.”
weather required more than my old parka so, I enveloped myself in
long johns, a thick cotton shirt, (one of my cleanest dirty ones), a
sweater that my Mother had knitted some years ago. To this I added a
long woolen scarf that I could wrap around my head if I had to cover
everything but my eyes. I topped it off with my favorite black Cowboy
hat made of felt. Gloves, overshoes over my old boots and my parka I
was able to go outside.
the saddlebags for storage I walked out to the barn to visit my
horses. They always nickered when I showed up and I patted them to
let them know I loved them as much as they loved me. Their manes were
flopped back and forth then brushed to one side and if they were
cats, they would be purring. I threw the saddle on Annie and made
sure that Buck had enough hay until the next day.
temperature was ten below zero and the wind was blowing the snow.
my mode of transportation didn’t require following the road
from my ranch to the west. We cut across the farmer’s quarter
section pointing directly north-west. The snow was not more than
about a foot deep and we followed a pattern that took us through
areas where the snow wasn’t abundant. We passed a heavy growth
of trees, mostly Spruce and onto the road that stretched west to the
a walking speed we would arrive in about two to three hours. About a
mile from the city lived an elderly friend, Jake McWilliam. He lived
by himself in his farm house that he had built some forty years ago.
There was no furnace just a kitchen stove and a huge heater in the
front room very much like I had. One advantage he owned was
electricity with a light in his yard that destroyed the shadows next
to the house. I decided to stop and say hello.
and I have known each for many years and I am blessed with his
friendship. We are about the same age. Old.
saddle was loosened on Annie to let her take a deep breath and I
dropped the lines on the snow and sheltered her next to the house
where the wind was almost non existent
There was no need to knock for I knew that
spotted me coming into his yard. The warmth in his home was most
delightful and Jake shook my hand and patted me on the back. Near
lunch time we knocked off a quick whiskey and then sat to consume
bacon and eggs. He asked if that suited me and I answered in the
affirmative and ate.
satisfied that my belt was tighter, I rode off to town.
Walmart was near the east end of the city and it was convenient for
me. Instead of bread, I bought soft buns this time. A number of easy
prepared foods were collected and I precariously packed the eggs and
a gallon of milk in my saddlebags and hung a couple of grocery bags
over the horse behind me.
gallon of milk wouldn’t last me a week because it was one of my
loved foods/drinks. So,---I bought some powder that said I could mix
water with it and it tasted just like milk. Bingo,
I was in town, I cashed my government check that I had received in my
mail box. The garbage was thrown away and I tucked a letter from one
of my kids into the front of my shirt. I would read it when I
it had started to snow and the northwest wind was rising. At least
the wind would be in my back most of the way home.
stop was made at Jake’s and he treated me to a shot of whiskey
and coffee. He asked me if I wanted to stay the night but, after some
consideration, I said, no. If we hurried along my horse should get me
home just after dark.
road was reasonably clear as the wind drifted the snow across to fill
the ditches. About two or three miles east, I stopped and pulled the
saddle off Annie. I had placed two blankets under the saddle and I
drew one over Annie’s front shoulders and over the saddle horn
to cover most of my legs, after she was re-saddled.
huddled in my clothing and covered everything except my eyes and we
road was a bit icy and once in a while Annie would slide but always
recovered. Thus, I kept her to a walk. There wasn’t any sense
to try the ditches that were overflowing with snow.
what I figured was the point of no return, I thought for ten seconds.
To return to Jake’s place was out of the question. I realized
that it would soon be dark and I began to feel the cold. Under
Annie’s blanket, it seemed warm to my bare hand but I knew that
the hefty wind was making her cold too. Keep moving, I told myself.
watched as carefully as I could for the trail that led over my
neighbor’s farmland. It was a blackness that I couldn’t
penetrate. My mind said that we should be close.
blizzard, “I said out loud finding that my teeth were starting
to chatter. Snow had covere4d me in layers and the wind cut me like a
tried to pull to the right and I reined her to continue on but she
resisted so, I let her have her way and she struggled into the ditch
and had difficulty moving through the bank of snow. The we came to
the huge copse of small trees and large Spruce. How did she know to
move into this area? I stopped her and patted her for being so smart
and brushed some snow from her head and rear end. It was virtually
quiet under the crown of branches.
urged her to take to the last mile or so of our journey and she
willingly obliged. Back out the shelter of the trees it was extremely
colder than it was before. My imagination obviously. We discovered
that the snow had been blown in huge drifts and Annie was tired and
she gamely moved on because she knew where she was and I was on her
would lunge out of the pile of snow and it felt like she was about to
trip. I kept patting her and talking to her and telling her that we
would make it.
her left front leg rested on a hard drift and her foot went down into
three feet of snow as she sidestepped and both of us went over on the
left side. It hurt when I landed on the wind packed snow bank and my
leg was caught under her. I waited for her to move so I could get out
and also that I could help her get up. With a valiant effort her rear
end bent up just enough to let me out. As quickly as possible I
attempted to stand. I was still on my knees and Annie made it to her
feet. I grabbed her by her head and hugged and told her that she was
exceptional and wonderful and out of breath. She was breathing hard
and I tried to walk ahead and lead her but I did not have enough
energy and I was extremely cold.
stopped and went back to her side, reached up and got a good hold on
the saddle horn and we set forth. It probably wasn’t even a
half mile but before the time we stopped at the barn, she was
dragging me. I hung there for a while and then led Annie into the
barn and she immediately started to eat. After the lantern was lit
and with some difficulty, I managed to get most of the snow off her
back and took the curry comb and scratched over her body. That effort
should get her blood flowing well and she looked like she would get
warm and probably lay down and sleep. Buck had been standing right
beside me watching my every move.
frozen milk and eggs were rescued and I staggered to my house. The
rest of the groceries could wait until tomorrow. The kerosene lamp
was lit immediately and I lifted the stove lid but there was no fire
left. In went a newspaper and kindling and I stood there and watched
the flames rise out of the stove. More wood was added. I was feeling
rather strange, everything seemed to be funny. I thought of our trip
and when Annie fell, I almost laughed. My outer clothes and boots
were thrown on one of the wooden kitchen trees and I sat down on the
other one. The heat dusted over me and I heaved a huge sigh while
waiting for my teeth to stop clicking.
apparently was glad to see me and he yowled and trid to crawl up my
pant leg. He didn’t realize that he sank his claws into my leg.
thought came to mind that the down filled feather tick, (as I called
it), would fit over me as I sat in front of the stove. When I stepped
up a couple of steps to the loft, I was able to grab the comforter
and took a further chance and laid it on the stove for a couple of
minutes. There was a slight burn mark when I picked it up and threw
it over my shoulders. Warmth never felt so good.
major curled up on my knee.
there for an hour or two I thought. We had avoided freezing to death
Is absolute. It arrives like the eye of the blizzard we were in and
you, God, for helping me. Thank you, Annie, for being such a strong
soldier. Thank you, Jake. Thank my lucky stars!!
what I call survival.
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