Saturday, March 11, 2017

'The Long Driveway . . . Had Disappeared, As Had The Cars And Most Of My Bus'

With the makings of a major mid-March snowstorm looming early in the week, as well as a couple of birthdays, I'm dusting off an excerpt from There's A House In The Land, my book on life at a certain hippie farm in the 1970s:
The Birthday Blizzard was so named because it began snowing on Dadd's birthday and didn't stop until well into my birthday, the next day.  Shell, or rather the Ouija board she was tinkering with at the kitchen table, had predicted this event a couple of days earlier.  So had the Weather Bureau, as well as Bix's knees, which descended into paroxysms of aches as the barometer plummeted.   
My housemates and I never needed a reason to party.  The storm certainly was one and we celebrated it with the kind of glee we felt as kids upon awakening on a no-school snow day.  The kitchen was well lardered with coffee, beer, cognac and victuals. The porch was stacked high with firewood, Shell, Bix and everyone else had evacuated to Newark, and radio reports confirmed that the region had come to a standstill.  We were toasty.  The pipes hadn't frozen. The lights flickered a few times, but had not gone out, although the telephone line running along the short driveway was down.  Nobody could call us and nobody could reach us.  Oh joy!   
Noonish, the snow stopped, the sun came out and the sky cleared into an azure blue.  The kitchen was suffused with the aroma of the potpourri simmering in the kettle atop the wood stove.  Dadd, Jack and I sipped coffee and nibbled on the dregs of a fruitcake sent to us by Owen Owen, our Irish friend.   
Snow was blowing off the trees.  A titmouse noshed on a platform feeder outside a kitchen window.  And suddenly was gone as a hawk swooped down, scooped it up and flew away. How glorious it felt to be alive, even if one little bird no longer was.  
I was the first person thereabouts who had a goose down jacket some decades before North Face became trendy fashion wear.  I had bought the jacket on a trip to Colorado, and it made me look like the Michelin Man.  But boy was it warm.   
Jacketed, gloved and booted in knee-high gaiters, I clomped around the yard, a mug of coffee laced with cognac in one hand and a yardstick in the other listening to the crunch of my footfalls and the occasional caw of a crow.  It otherwise was wonderfully quiet.    
About 35 inches of snow had fallen.  There were wind-driven drifts up to five feet high, one of which had nearly covered an Alberta blue spruce that Doctor Duck and Davis had purloined from a tree nursery on a Christmas Eve when they were feeling holiday-ish and decided the farm had to have a tree.  Portions of the short driveway were impassable, while the long driveway, which was a good quarter-mile in length from the house to the state road, had disappeared, as had the cars and most of my bus.   
I had just come back into the kitchen when our reverie was shattered.  There was the unmistakable whine of machinery, and it was coming our way.  The whine grew louder and the source revealed itself at the milk house turn to be three snow blowers operated in tandem by King Mike and a couple of pals.  We stood dumbstruck at a kitchen window as they passed the house in a cloud of blown snow and continued down the long driveway.   
We had visitors and the farm now had a toboggan run.  
The toboggan run was fast that first afternoon, and lightning fast the second, because temperatures had come up long enough for it to rain lightly and then plunged back down, freezing the run to an icy sheen.   
Within a couple of days, we had improved the run until we were able to climb onto a toboggan on a barn ramp, push off, and slowly gain speed as the toboggan sliced through the parking area adjacent to the kitchen porch and picked up serious speed on the first downhill stretch.   
We had banked the hard left turn down the driveway.  If a toboggan made it through the turn without flipping over -- and if Jack was aboard one of the four-person rides he'd reach into his bag of nautical terms and shout "emergency full astern!" -- with everyone leaning hard to avoid being spilled, we were able to continue down the rest of the driveway and across the state road, where King Mike and his merry snow blowers had continued the course for another couple hundred feet.  Traffic was very light in the days after the blizzard, but as a precaution we put a spotter on the hill where the driveway met the road with the BEST EVER! Flag Day party flag. The spotter would wave it if there were cars coming.  
King Mike and his posse had lugged in a case of cognac and a keg of beer, which along with a goodly-sized chunk of hashish, fortified the ever flowing and ebbing crowd of tobogganers, sledders and cross-country skiers who beat a path to the farm over the next several days.   
Then we discovered we were out of pot.   
The five-gallon buckets we had filled the previous autumn save for one, had been buried around the farm, and finding them was impossible with nearly three feet of snow on the ground. Then Jack recalled he had buried a bucket in the earth floor of the shed. He and I repaired there, shovels in hand.   
Jack paced back and forth like a pirate sizing up a beach where there was buried treasure, found a spot he liked, pushed the shovel into the floor, and then jumped on it.   
The result was a happy CLINK! as it hit the lid of the bucket. 

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