Tuesday, February 28, 2023

The Snow When Jim and Glenn's House Burnt Down

 The last time I remember this much snow is the year my neighbor's house burnt down, in the 1970's sometime.  I don't remember the month or exact year. My daughter Maya was about three and Allan was on vacation in San Francisco when the storm came.  We were living in the small cabin we had built onto and had no phone and no electricity and I had no vehicle.   A normal life in the woods ourside of Hyampom.

I am futzing around in the small kitchen when Glenn comes driving down the driveway and in a voice high and straining for normality wants to borrow some dog food.  "We've just lost everything," she says matter of factly by way of explanation.  I struggle to get out the 100 lb sack of dogfood which she finally grabs and lifts and carries through the snow, talking fitfully about how the fire might have started and what they should have got out of the flames.  "I really hate it about the fishing poles"  "The only thing that bothers me is the boots.  I should have got them.  They cost $30."   We drive down to their house or what is left of it.  Glenn continues with heart breaking regularity to think of some small item she had left in the flames.  They have got their mattress out and the box springs out.  "We're very lucky of course.  But I am sorry about those strawberries I was growing inside."

We arrive.  It is gone.The wood pile is shooting high flames.  Smoke and steam rise from the ruins.  There are only charred remains inside the foundation and the burned out stove and frig and freezer are warped and tipped at peculiar angles, the coals glowing, ashes and charcoal melting the snow around the house a foot or so.  I can't stop staring.

Jim is slap happy.  "It went like a house afire!" he says.  "Look at that crazy woodpile!"  The woodpile is setting the electric pole on fire.  Jim throws snow balls at the fire on the pole to put it out.  Glenn says smiling, "He used to play baseball, you know."  

We feed the animals.  The five hound dogs are chained to their houses  and the cows are milling around the barn waiting.  It is cold and wet and dreary and the thought of going in the house for warmth and coffee is stopped short by a glance.  It's gone.  All gone.

Jim and Glenn decide they must go into Hyampom to be near the phone tomorrow.  Jim wishes he still drank.  "It's the perfect time for it!"  I have to agree.  Snow is now falling on top of some of the ashes.  We are chilled but an't bring ourselves to go as if we might think of something still to do which would change things.  Maya plays on the hay in the barn.  The house dogs are still waiting for a decision.

We go.  They let me out and drive on to town.  It is late already.  I hurredly feed the chickens and get wood in.  Milk the cow.   Maya plays her house burns down.  It snows harder than I've seen it here.  It is another foot deep.  After I'm in bed, I begin to worry that the kitchen roof(which we built) won't hold this much snow.  The creaks and cracks of the wood scare me.  At 1:30 I get up and get dressed deciding it is better to act than to worry.  I take the broom and push 20 or so inches of snow off the roof everywhere I can reach.  Then I sleep.

Each morning for the next week I wake hoping the snow will be gone.  Each morning I find it has snowed again.  Maya yells, "more snow"  The trees drip and hang with it.  It is beautiful.  But it's hard to walk in 3 feet of snow and the trip to the barn to feed and milk makes me realize that if Jim and Glenn can't make it and I have to walk with Maya to Jim's to feed it will take all day.  I plan to take coffee and sandwiches and dry clothes for  Maya and start the walk after an early lunch.  I wake everyday with this plan, feed and milk, get the wood in, cook lunch and wait for Jim and Glenn.  They come; every day the manage, although no one else even tries to get through the drifts.  The house remains are still smoking the first few days.  Maya accepts this routine cheerfully.  I pay attention every minute of the day.  Check the fire, check the food, check the animals.  I milk quickly and put the calf back on early, hating to leave Maya in the house unattended although she is engrossed in her building blocks and Fisher Price miniature people and they are having both burning houses and citified adventures all in good cheer.

The journal entry ends here.  Weather similar to now.  Totally different landscape, infrastructure and population but still have that since of wilderness in the midst of a storm.

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