I DO know what cold weather is. Stationed in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with the Air Force, we plugged our cars in at night and measured snow by the telephone poles. We occasionally rode a snow machine to work. Dedicated to the mission, we got there one way or another!
We were hardy people, I tell ya. We thought nothing of temps that made our truck seats freeze up like stone and threaten to crack. We took survival gear along when we went to the grocery store, just in case. Yep, Nanook of the North had nothing on us Yoopers!
So, it tickled me when a family friend in the Forest warned me about winter on the Palmer Divide. “Better hold onto that townhouse, just in case you can’t handle it up here and want to move back to town,” he advised.
Really. Well, he didn’t know I was one mighty determined lady, not easily scared off by a little snow and Colorado cold. Living in this cabin was a dream come true. I gazed through the pines at aspens shimmering in the balmy fall breeze and replied, “There is NO way. We’re here to stay!” (I tend to burst into thyme when I get my dander up.)
Then the weather got cold – really cold! It dropped to 20 below and stayed there, day after day. We stuffed newspapers into cracks in the logs and hung blankets over doors to block out the frigid wind. I opened the faucets a bit so they’d drip. (There I go with the rhyming again.) We fired up the wood stove and soon we were snug as a bug in that proverbial rug.
I thought we were ready for whatever Mother Nature would throw at us. But how come nobody told me to put a heater down in that concrete well pump ten yards from the house? I never quite knew what was down there. Covered by a concrete lid and far too heavy for this little lady to lift, I assumed whatever it was would work just fine without our help. (Never make assumptions.)
Then, slowly, things began to shut down. Faucets stopped dripping, the potty stopped flushing and our hot water furnace stopped heating. All of a sudden, I felt like Laura Ingalls Wilder, alone without Ma or Pa in a Little House in the Big Woods. Why, we didn’t even have a fiddle or harmonica on hand!
Day after day we endured these primitive conditions. No water for coffee, no showers, no laundry. Not even a drop for brushing your teeth. Then the high speed internet went out — that was the worst. Isolated from family and friends at the end of an impassable driveway and craving human contact, I wallowed through hip deep drifts just to wave to the snowplow drivers.
You’d think I would have been grateful when the weather warmed up. Now we heard water flowing. My heart swelled with joy as I rushed ‘round the cabin searching for that magical elixir, that life-giving moisture — source of all things squeaky clean and highly caffeinated. But none was to be found. T’was a mystery. Water, precious water, wherefore art thou?
Meanwhile, down in the crawl space…
Old steel pipes had met their match and given up the ghost in multiple locations. Water spewed in all directions, creating a scene that rivaled dancing fountains at the Bellagio Hotel.
Yes, now we had water.
I owe a great debt, many thanks and my firstborn child to Vince, who toiled and struggled to tame the ruptured pipes. He fixed the hot water furnace, installed shiny new parts and shared history of my cabin from his one-room schoolhouse days.
Those who live to be old and wise believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But as someone on Twitter once said, “It also gives you a lot of unhealthy coping mechanisms and a really dark sense of humor!”