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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: February 28, 2019

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

My first Wisconsin winter in 18 years is turning out to be a classic, much like I remember when I was a little girl. We have had some epic cold (52 below wind chill) and now we seem to be stuck on the tracks of the snowstorm train.

Like most native Wisconsinites we have gone about our business, although a few of our winter skills were rusty.

One very snowy day a couple of weeks ago, Mike was out of town. I was signed up for volunteer hours at the animal shelter, so I was not going to let the snow stop me from going. The animals there still need care, regardless of the weather. I had a lot to learn about the procedures at the shelter at this point. So I chose to drive my husband's truck with 4WD and committed to myself that if it got too bad, I'd turn around and come home. I never stopped to wonder if the shelter had been plowed out.

No one wants an animal shelter as a neighbor, so it is on a long, narrow country lane off a long, narrow country lane and uphill to the shelter.

Everything was fine until I got to the short, dead end road that leads uphill to the shelter parking lot. I hesitated at the intersection at the bottom of the hill, since it did not look like a plow had been up the road in a long time and it was perpendicular to the direction of the drifts. But I made it up the hill, not without a few seconds of worry. But at the top of the hill a new dilemma " the parking lot was not plowed either, and I couldn't even tell where the road I was on entered what I knew was the lot. At this point, I decided I needed to go home and call someone " there were no cars at the shelter nor any visible tracks.

I was certain I wouldn't be able to back down the hill in my tracks, so I picked what I thought was the parking lot entrance and gave it a try so I could turn around in the lot. Unfortunately I picked wrong, and got stuck. The deeply drifted snow wasn't the problem, it was the glare ice underneath all 4 tires.

Now it was decision time. Should I try to call my brother in law, or a tow truck? Maybe I could walk out?

AH! One old trick occurred to me. I took the floor mats out of the truck and put them behind the rear wheels and backed up onto them. Once a Wisconsin winter driver, always a Wisconsin winter driver. Then I took a run at the parking lot, made it, turned around and got home safely.

Now I know that fortunately for the animals at the shelter, a volunteer with a plow truck lives within easy walking distance, and he gives emergency weather care to the animals.

The forecast for the past weekend looked grim. I spent Friday running errands like picking up horse feed and sunflower seeds, and buying essential groceries. I felt like a squirrel hiding nuts before the winter. I cancelled social plans and decided the best place for me would be home for the weekend. With that in mind I also picked up a 550 piece puzzle, something I hadn't done in decades.

Saturday morning, Wolfgang, who is not a barker, woke me up with a start just after 5 a.m. He was barking non-stop, running between windows in agitation. It was still dark, so it took a moment for my eyes to pick out a couple of deer, slowly approaching the bird feeder at the edge of the woods. Unfortunately his barking drove them back, the deep snow making their retreat a struggle. I was sorry he spotted them " I wouldn't begrudge them some bird food. They doubtless knew, in that magical way the wild things have, the weather was about to make foraging much harder than it already was and were searching hard for food. Feeding deer was never part of my plans, but it's hard not to pity them in these harsh conditions. Maybe once the wind dies down and the snow stops I'll try to get a bale of hay out to their trail.

Salsa chicken in the crockpot, good books to read, a puzzle and the pets kept me occupied in the house. Twice a day I waded out through the drifts to take care of the horses, feed the birds and walk the dogs. I shoveled the front walk and the patio twice a day. I joined a very small crowd at our close-by country church on Saturday night, then scurried right back home. I have texting and e-mail to keep in touch with friends and family, so I am way more fortunate than my grandparents would have been. Sometimes people of that era would be stranded in complete isolation for days. There were no snowmobiles for emergency rescues, and few if any four-wheeled drive vehicles back then. Not much in the way of TV options, if they had a TV. Now that would have probably driven me stir crazy. But I am cozy and content with plenty of diversions to pass the snowy days away at home.

The days are already noticeably longer and the first day of spring (at least the calendar date,) is only 21 more days away. As I keep telling my Oklahoma friends, I'm not ready to scratch my eyeballs out yet; I will survive my first winter home.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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