Monday, February 21, 2011

Stuck Again...and Again...and Again

Our vehicles have expressed their collective dislike for winter by staging various forms of work stoppages over the past two months. First, my car wouldn't start, then my car couldn't make it up our hill. Then, as winter progressed, the other vehicles ...both the tractor and the truck, joined in the protests as well.

Tuesday February 8-- evening

It's been snowing all day.
It's late when Dave finally pulls into the driveway after a long drive on snow-covered roads. He's exhausted, so I feel bad suggesting (more accurately insisting) that he plow the driveway tonight. After all, we both have to work in the morning...and we both know he's not going to want to fire up the tractor at 5am.

Reluctantly, he concedes defeat. I watch his progress from the kitchen window while I wash dishes. The tractor has no lights, and before long it disappears into dakness at the end of the drivevway. I wait for it to reappear. The clean dishes pile up on the counter, and still, there's no sign of the tractor. I suddenly have visions of the tractor lurching sideways and landing upsidedown in the ditch, pinning Dave. I dry my shrivelled hands and rush to the mudroom to haul on my coat. Just then the chime rings and the front door swings open. It's Dave, covered in snow and wearing a scowl. The tractor is stuck-- but at least it's upright and he's ok.

In the dark, Dave has driven off the edge of our too narrow driveway and down into a deep drift on our front lawn. The four-foot high rear tires are half-way submerged in snow.

He backs the truck as close to the rear of the tractor as he can and attaches the tow-ropes. I hoist myself into the driver's seat as he makes his way back to the tractor, flashlight in hand. I shift the truck into gear and ease my foot onto the gas pedal. The truck strains forward, then the tires spin, searching for solid ground, finding only snow. An instant later, the truck lurches forward as the tow-rope breaks.

We give up on that idea. We consider leaving the tractor there until spring. But there's a whole lot more snow to be moved and neither of us is keen on doing that much shovelling. Dave shrugs and decides to attempt to drive the tractor forward across the lawn. What's the worst that could happen? It's already stuck.

He rocks it forward then back, forward then back. Finally, it's freed from the cradle-like ruts, and inches forward slightly. I clap and cheer them on. "Come on Dave, come on MF" (my nickname for our Massey Ferguson tractor which shares my initials). Thankfully there are no neighbours to offer furtive glances from their windows. He chugs ahead slowly through a winter's worth of deep snow, turning the tractor toward a gap in the line of stately evergreen trees which stand at attention the length of our driveway. Branches bend as the tractor emerges from between the trees and rises onto the driveway. Disaster averted-- for now.

The next morning-- Wednesday February 9

I wake to the sound of CBC radio announcers warning of treacherous road conditions. I look out our back window and see snow piled up above the doorknob on the feedroom door. The path to the paddocks is impassible with waist high drifts. I open the front door and a mini avalache of snow rolls inside. I look at the driveway and groan. Dave will make it out with the truck. But I'm taking the car today, and despite Dave's valiant efforts last night, the driveway is once again blocked.

It's not that it snowed much overnight. It's simply that Mother Nature has chosen to redecorate. Using winds gusting between 50 and 60 kilometers an hour, she lifted tens of thousands of snowflakes, swirled them around in the air and redeposited them in spaces made vacaant by earlier efforts with shovels and plows. I don't like to criticize Her work, but She and I certainly have different visions of how the landscape should look.

With no time to waste, I brave the ongoing winds and start shovelling. After an hour, I've carved a new path on Mother Nature's canvas. I lower a steaming mug of tea into my car's cup holder, toss my bagged lunch onto the passenger seat, and prepare myself for a long drive punctuated by icy roads and white-out conditions.

But as I shift the car into reverse, it refuses to move. Well, it moves a couple of inches, then stops, tires spinning. I get out, shovel around all the tires, and try again. Nothing. There's ice underneath, and I'm in a low point on the driveway. I curse my low-slung station wagon. I think of the four-tonne pile of traction sand back by the manure pile-- beyond a 30 meter stretch of waist deep snow. I'm not that desperate yet. I call my boss to tell her I'll be late. She's stuck in her driveway too. Upon hearing this, I feel better about myself.

I have a sudden epiphany-- cardboard. There are some old boxes in the house. I can slip the cardboard from the boxes under the tires, and I'll be good to go. I try. The tires simply spit the cardboard back across the driveway.

Then, another, better epiphany-- cat litter. I can pour cat litter under the tires instead of sand. It should provide traction, and I don't have to wade out to the frozen sand pile to get it. I try that. The car's tires dig deeper, icier trenches, and big wads of clumping litter stick to everything in sight. But the car remains firmly stuck.

Finally, reluctantly, I haul on my snowpants, grab the empty kitty litter bucket and wade through the waist high drifts to the sand pile. Once there, I heave three bales of frozen, rotting hay off the tarp which covers the pile. Then I use my gloved-hands to dig throught he snow until I find an edge of the blue tarp. I peel it back then chizel frozen sand from the pile with a metal shovel until my bucket is full. I wade back to the car. I'm freezing, and my mug of tea is no longer steaming, but at least I'm sure this will work. This is what traction sand is for-- right?

Wrong. It's no use, despite a bucket full of sand, the car's not moving. I can't even rock it forward and back anymore. I wave the white flag and dial the 1-800 number for CAA.

I retreat inside the warm house and wait. The tow truck driver who "rescues" me is the same one who towed our car when my license had expired.

Sat. Feb. 12
The path to the manure pile has been blocked with snow for three days now. For three days I've been dumping wheelbarrows full of manure on top of frozen, snow-covered flower beds in the backyard. I ease my conscience by telling myself it will make good fertilizer in the spring.

Today though, Dave has the day off and he's reluctantly agreed to spend much of it clearing snow. He manages to clear a narrow path down the lane before he clips the edge of our sand pile and the tractor sinks deep into the soft ground beneath. It's stuck. Again. We both sigh and agree to deal with it tomorrow.

Sunday February 13
I grab a shovel. Dave grabs some boards. Amidst firece winds, we begin our mission to liberate the tractor. As he jacks up the tires, I dig and dig and dig. Dave slides the boards into the spaces I've created. He lowers the tractor and tries to drive away. The tires spin and the chains rattle, but the tractor refuses to move. Choking on diesel fumes, I dig some more. There's hardly any snow left around the tires. The ruts are now simply flat ground. I'm sure Dave can easily drive it out. But no, the obstinate old girl holds her ground. "Come on MF, there's no reason for you not to move now", I shout-- discouraged.

Reluctantly, we agree to try plan B. I've been hoping it wouldn't come to this, but I can't see any other alternative. Dave gets his tow ropes and begins to back the truck down the lane. I'm nervous. Dave only managed to clear a narrow path before mother nature gripped our tractor's tires and sucked them down through the snow with her unrelenting grasp. The path's not wide enough for the truck and I know it. I halfheartedly offer to widen it with a shovel before we bring the truck in. But neither of us really want to make the effort. So, Dave cautiously manoeuvers the truck backwards. At first, it goes well. Then, I hear it... the sound of tires spinning.

It takes a lot to get Dave mad, but he's mad now. He gets out of the truck and slams the door-- swearing. I'm surprised he managed to get the door open at all since snow is now jammed up above the top of the tires. Exhasperated, Dave's convinced the truck is stuck until spring...which means the tractor is stuck...which means our only vehicle is the station wagon. Looking at the ice and snow shoved up underneath the chasis, I'm inclined to agree, but I don't tell him that. Instead I reassure him that we'll get the truck out. It will just take a little-- er maybe a lot of digging. So, I wade into the snow and start shovelling. My arms are sore from my earlier efforts with the tractor. But there's a job to be done.

We dig for a solid half hour. Finally, we've moved as much snow away from the truck as we can. Dave climbs into the cab, and I stand behind the truck with my fingers crossed. Snow crunches as the truck rolls ahead. It's free....but there's still the issue of the tractor.

We do a bit more shovelling in the lane, and with a path now cleared, Dave inches the truck backwards again. This time, the snow stays firmly packed underneath the tires. We attach the tow ropes, and on Dave's signal, I inch the truck forward. With barely discernable effort, the tractor is pulled free of Mother Nature's icy grip.

What a week-- I hope the groundhog is right and that spring is just around the corner.

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