Adrift in the Snow

GLACIER2Last weekend, a peculiar creature came calling: Snowzilla.

He was the kind of guest who arrives uninvited, stays too long and refuses to pick up after himself.

The storm forced our State Patrol to lower and lock the blizzard gates on the interstates and city plows were called upon to push mountains of snow onto the county and state highways throughout Southern Minnesota to seal them off.

In the middle of all this, my neighbor decided to drive to town.

He is not a foolish or careless man, mind you – but there he was digging his pickup truck out of a deep snow drift.

So I grabbed my shovel and slogged over the dunes of snow to help him out. It’s what neighbors do.

“You need help?” I called.

This was more of a formality than a question.

“Naw, I got it.”

This was also a formality.

“I got nothing to do anyway.”

“Suit yourself.”

So we dug and we dug.

His truck had surfed as far into the snow as several hundred horsepower could fling it and lucky for him, he hit a small drift. The deeper, wider drifts waited up the road and even if he had gotten to the county highway, it had not seen a plow in two days.

Still, we had to get him unstuck.

The first task was to trench around the pickup, if for no other reason than to find where the ground was. The next task was to locate the wheels.

“Your truck frame is floating on a two feet of snow,” I observed.

“Yeah, I took a run at her.”

This was an invitation to ponder the idiocy of driving into a snow drift – but what would be the point of that?

I let it go.

“I heard you got hung up two weeks ago,” he said.

“We did,” I told him.

My wife and I were coming home just after dark and ran aground on a snow drift about half a mile from our house.

“That was pretty stupid,” he said.

It was. The temperature had hit -28°F about the time we hit the snow drift and the wind was gusting at a good 30 mph, dropping the windchill to below -70°F.

“It turned bad fast,” I explained.

So here I am thinking, if he is an idiot and I am stupid for getting stuck in the snow, what exactly is the difference between idiocy and stupidity?

The dictionary refused to shed light on the matter.

He was clearly an idiot for driving hell-bent into a snow drift. But to his credit, it was not dark nor was there a -70°F windchill, rather it was afternoon and a balmy -10°F.

What he did would fall under the category of irrational exuberance. It is a socially acceptable and well understood phenomena in rural areas which is usually preceded by the phrase, “Hold my beer.”

What we did was stupid because we could have died.

We were dressed for 0°F, not for -70°F and both of us suffered frostbite while walking to a house no more than 100 yards away after several phone calls failed to turn up help.

Our neighbors up the road helped pull our truck out and despite being gracious about the whole affair, I fear our stupidity is the kind of thing that everyone will talk about for years and will never be forgiven nor forgotten.

Because it put others at risk.

By now, we had my next-door neighbor’s truck started and were rocking it back and forth in its tracks to get a run at backing out of the snow.

“So where were you going?” I yelled as he almost got it out.

“I dunno,” my neighbor said, spinning plumes of snow, “I just wanted to get out of the house.”

“You succeeded in doing that.”

He cracked a big grin as he broke free of the drift and roared back up the drive.

“And so did you,” he called back.


This photo was taken from the road looking into our neighbor’s driveway. It is where we got stuck.

Author: Almost Iowa

53 thoughts on “Adrift in the Snow”

  1. After reading this gripping story, I don’t miss the European winters of my youth. But the snowy landscape is still beautiful!

  2. Y’know, you haven’t succeeded in making me miss Minnesota. I know you were trying to, but somehow this just didn’t do it.

    As for deciding you’ve just got to go out when you’d be smarter to hide under the covers, back when Minneapolis had that 10-inch rain that fell in two hours, I decided I absolutely had to go out and buy a quart of milk. Not because we were out of milk, mind you, but because we might be flooded in the house for, I don’t know, weeks. Months. At least hours. I got two blocks from the house, with water up to I’m not sure where, before I decided I’d had a moment of temporary insanity and turned around. We did just fine without the milk.

  3. I enjoyed the post and the comments, and I’m glad your story ended with you making it home safely. The difference in today’s society is you live in a community that helps each other. I applaud you and your neighbors. I live where the neighbors are not a community so truth be told there’d be a lot of looking out a window from a warm house but not necessarily a lot of help coming. I like your environment a lot better. Carry on, don’t hand anyone your beer, and for heaven’s sake don’t do anything stupid, well, at least until the next post. 🙂

    1. The couple who helped us out just had a new baby, so naturally, Julie is quilting them a baby blanket as a thank you. It must be said that the reason we took a chance on the weather was to drive to the hospital to be there when our second great, great-grandchild was born.

      And no, I am not THAT old. 🙂 🙂 🙂

      1. So many replies here – yes, you are that old because I also have great, great-nephews and nieces. LOL And, a trip to see a new family member is always worth the effort. I also think you need a post about the quilt so I can see it when it is done. Surely Scooter can create some mischief worthy of a post. 🙂

  4. So glad you and your wife are (mostly) okay! Frostbite is no fun! But don’t be too hard on yourself, as I’m guessing you had to get home, and maybe just waited a little too long? It’s hard to be careful about the weather, day after day, when you’re so sick of the snow and cold that you just have to get out.

    1. The weather turned bad really fast and we knew it was bad but not that bad. I thought of taking Scooter for a walk this morning – but I checked the weather first. The sun is shining but it is -16°F with a -35°F windchill. I think I will just let Scooter run around the yard. He never seems to mind.

  5. So, he did you a favor getting you out of the house? Bet it didn’t feel that way to you.

    We may get plenty of snow, but it’s not windy, so no drifts. And below zero temps are also rare. Snow everywhere, but it got to 54 yesterday.

    1. Actually, it felt good to get out of the house. I go stir-crazy when I miss my walks with Scooter.

      54F? Wow? I’ll bet we won’t see that until April.

  6. We get the same mentality in Oz, albeit driving on out back roads with no water or preparation. Many perish, that heat is relentless.
    Mind you, I can and do understand cabin fever…… That’s why I’m a gypsy.

  7. Down here, it’s the low water crossings that get us, or the flooded freeway underpasses. Everyone knows not to drive through them, but someone always does. Then they get plucked from the roof of their car, and have the pleasure of watching the car spin away in the flood waters. Sometimes, they don’t get rescued in time, and they spin away with the car. The basic conversation always sounds like this: “Why in the world did you do that?” “I thought I could make it.”

  8. I guess some people just refuse to be told what they should or shouldn’t do, contrary to rationale thinking.. But at least everyone got out of the house for a while..:)

    1. People are really good about helping each other out around here. Probably the most amazing thing to watch is when a farmer gets sick or injured and the entire neighborhood shows up to help him get his crops out.

  9. We’ve had similar conditions in northern Maine this past week – a fresh 14 inch snow fall followed by below zero temps and high winds. The roads were filled in with snow right behind the plow trucks with white out conditions. It was dreadful! In my area it snowed but we had snow/ice/sleet/freezing rain but we still had the winds and low temps. Glad you and your neighbor are okay. And isn’t it so humbling to find out that stupidity and idiocy are synonyms? Love the line about ‘Hold my beer.’

    1. You be careful, we still have much more winter to go. I’ll bet that we will not see the last of ditch snow until the third week in April. Heck, maybe even by May Day.

  10. Snowzilla sounds like a monster. Be careful out there! Here in western Oregon, everyone panics when we get two inches of snow. It’s amazing how many accidents there are! Everyone becomes stupid, instantly. Ha ha. I’m glad you all got home safely. 🙂

    1. The advantage of living in a snow state is that whenever the first snowflake hits the road, state, county, city and township trucks all start to roll.

      Okay, I have a funny story. You know me, I always got one up my sleeve.

      Years ago, when I worked for the MPD, my lieutenant got called out on a winter night. Rain had fallen on black ice and the streets were treacherous. The first call dispatched her to a pile up at the bottom of a hill. The only way to approach it was from the top, so her and her partner cruised slowly to the crown of the slope and carefully got out of their squad onto the slick ice. Dotty softly closed her door but her partner slammed his. It was all it took for the car to start creeping across the ice toward the crest of the hill and tip over it. The squad spun down the hill, lights flashing and pin-balled into the cars below. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

      Let that be a lesson. 🙂 🙂 🙂

      1. Oh no! Sort of embarrassing, huh? Ha ha. I’m glad no one was hurt.
        Our county has one lone snowplow, and we don’t treat the roads (salmon habitat). Of course, it doesn’t help that people don’t know how to drive in bad weather either.

  11. I do hope the frostbite won’t cause lingering health issues for you…

    Randy regaled me with stories last evening from a customer who lives several miles south of Owatonna. The guy told how he had to dig a woman’s car out during Sunday’s blizzard. She was out driving because, as she said, “I had to see how bad it really was out in the country.” Stupid? Yes. Idiotic? Yes. Once freed, she proceeded to drive and become stuck again. Randy didn’t know how that second stuck in the snow episode went. The guy also told of 20 vehicles stuck and abandoned in his neighborhood alone. It’s amazing no one died after becoming stuck.

    We had a tragedy in Rice County of a young man who died after a hitch broke, flew through windows and hit him on the back of the head during a towing attempt. He was my eldest daughter’s classmate. And a snowmobiler also died during the blizzard here in my county…

    1. I was amazed how much frost burn is like sunburn. Despite my earlobe being froze solid ( a weird sensation) the only cost was red and shedding skin.

      I heard about the incident in Rice Country, horrible.

  12. We have a -70F freezer in our lab, and just opening that thing makes me die a little inside. I can’t imagine being out in that kind of cold!

    1. It’s the wind. Normally in that kind of cold, your exposed skin retains an aura of heat – but not in that wind. It was penetrating and hurt like hell.

  13. Reminds me of George Carlin’s take on this sort of thing: Anyone driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone driving faster than you is a maniac. Who’s to say……?

  14. In your defense, not that you asked for any, you were coming home, a necessary destination. Your neighbor was going away from home, for reasons unclear, albeit understandable. I’m not sure who’s stupid and who’s an idiot.

    When my daughter was little, we would get up early on snow days so we could take my truck for a ride before the plows “ruined everything.” No “hoid my beer” moments, but a couple that ended with “don’t tell mom.”

    1. I know all about “don’t tell mom” but what worries me is “don’t tell dad” which usually has something to do with shopping. 🙂

      1. True. “Don’t tell mom” means something was fun, maybe dangerous, but medical care was not involved. “Don’t tell dad” means it’s going to hurt at the end of the month.

  15. Those were the winters of my childhood so I can relate. Now I look out my window at the beauty of winter and pour myself another . . .tea! Good memories. bbbbrrrrr!

    1. I remember playing King of the Hill on 30 foot snowbanks that were thrown up by the snowplows on our playground. We had tons of fun – until some kid broke an arm – then the nuns chased us off. You kind of wonder why they waited each year for a broken arm to end our fun, maybe they just appreciated seeing us exhausted from play.

  16. Ah, life in the frozen north. We constantly have to dig our neighbor out because she keeps trying to navigate her long hill of a driveway before it’s been plowed. Seriously, how many times do you have to be buried before you realize it’s not a good idea?

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