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Icy weekend makes the chores “interesting”
From the Valley
Thatcher and Rime Ice_EM 012121
MANY FOLKS love photograph Cardinals against a snowy backdrop, because their bright red plumage is so striking in a white wintry world. Young Thatcher had a little bit in common with the showy birds against the backdrop of the sparkling rime ice.

RISING SUN - This past Saturday and Sunday were fine displays of Mother Nature’s powers in January. I’ve always noted, in particular around the time of my birthday (only six more shopping days left until the big 32 on the 27th!) that the weather takes a turn for the hazardous. Two years ago when I planned a big dinner for my 30th birthday, there was one hell of a blizzard. And, that certainly wasn’t the first time that has happened. This weekend was perhaps everybody’s least favorite–ice. 

When I was living in the city, heavy dangerous ice affected my life in different ways than it does now. A couple of times, I can remember coughing up cash I didn’t have to take a Union Cab to work across town, when the bus system shut down due to harsh conditions. And there is always the classic event of walking like a penguin down the sidewalks of folks who neglected to toss out any sand or salt. 

Not to be forgotten would be the days in my very first apartment, where the little red car I had was so badly iced in. I, so innocent and ignorant at 18, poured copious amounts of table salt under my tires, praying for it to be freed from its jam. 

This would be the same winter, I had to call an ambulance for an elderly neighbor who went out to fetch a package in only his boots, winter coat and tighty whities and slipped and injured himself. Luckily he was alright in the end, but my car sat there until spring. 

However, living in the country offers a whole different set of obstacles when the world becomes encased in a crystalized crust. I knew Saturday night that things were getting dicey as reports began flooding in on social media about cars being stranded on the big hills by Coon Valley and La Crosse. I reported this to Chasca, who was planning to make a trip in the early morning hours to go ice fishing. He grimaced at my news and muttered to himself and picked up his cellphone and began furiously texting with his fishing buddy.

The pair had already given up on their shanty, unable to appropriately socially distance in it, and the potentially hazardous roads just added insult to injury. But, of course when I woke up the next morning, and Waylon ventured out of the bed and throughout the house shouting “DAH DAH?” I instantly realized, there is nothing to stop a man from an ice fishing date. 

This left me with the job of chores solo. After a strong cup of coffee to motivate me, I set the kids up with a snack in their respective chairs and a movie and pulled on my boots. Our dogs, Sloppy and Queenie, were overly excited to be outside with me as I waddled along in the snow to the chicken coop. The dogs were jumping and running and sliding around.

Things were going fine and I even managed to salt a little trail. I thought this would be the prime time to haul a bag of pig feed over to their pen, for surely the ice should be melted by the salt by now. 

I grabbed the bag from the garage and hoisted it up on my shoulders. Thinking to myself, “WOW! All of this farm work is making me strong! This 40 pounds doesn’t even feel that heavy.” Walking out of the garage, I could see the dogs slipping and sliding along on our blacktop driveway. Excited by the sight of me and a bag they thought might contain something delicious for them, they rushed to me jumping, licking, and generally scrambling around like the wild beasts they are. 

This was when I slowly began to lose my balance and felt like if I kept going, a fall would be most certain. I squatted down a bit and let the feed bag fall off my shoulder with a thud. The dogs continued to menace me as I too made my slippery slow descent onto the bag. 

In my mind, it would work well for me to get onto the bag, the dogs would leave me alone and I would crawl feebly over to the snowbank and regain my footing to carry on with my job. However, it didn’t work this way at all. 

Rather, my dogs were even more overjoyed that I was now on the ground and proceeded to dance all around me, somewhat helping to propel my bag forward in my attempts to shove them out of my face. 

The bag began to accelerate down the drive and I decided at this point, well, might as well enjoy the ride! Luckily I didn’t get too far before I crashed into the unplowed part of the driveway and was able to execute some type of rolling dismount off my bag and finally carry on. 

By this time of course, all of the pigs and cows were lined up watching the show, along with one lone banty rooster, who began crowing as though he was an announcer at a ball game. 

Perhaps all of this excitement is just payback from nature for all of the times I stood laughing at our old house as the chickens would fly out of the coop with gusto only to hit the ice and go sliding down the hill with reckless abandon and no way to get their footing right, over and over again. Whatever it was, I’m just happy that I’ve figured out how to just go with the flow when it comes to ice, rather than slipping, falling, and cracking my head open. And who knows, maybe one day feed bag races will be a thing.