Winter Adventures (or one way to meet the neighbours)

Most every rural Saskatchewan home site has a shelter belt of some sort, trees planted on one, two, or more sides of the house and yard to provide protection from winter winds.  Prairie Woods has an absolutely wonderful shelter belt, with trees enough for what almost passes as a small forest here in the prairies.  Many times John and I have marvelled at the protection it provides the house and yard from the prevailing west and north winds that are so common in our part of the world.

The words “west” and “north” in the sentence above are important words.  For four days, we had strong south-east winds blowing over miles and miles of open grain fields and straight across our driveway.  For the first couple of days, it was not such a big problem to keep one’s speed up and plow through the drifts with John’s 3-quarter ton Silverado Duramax diesel.  Even the old Oldsmobile Delta 88 managed to get through them by following in the truck’s tire tracks.

Then on Saturday, Sharlee and I headed out to attend a trade show where I was signing books ( for the day.  We took John’s truck rather than the car, just in case the roads were bad.  Coming home, we went through a number of drifts on the grid roads, sometimes sending snow flying right over the roof of the cab.  One drift even managed to stop us altogether, with another 15 feet or so of deep snow yet to go.  Having learned to drive in the interior of British Columbia (many years ago), I kept moving, first back a little, then forward, then back, then forward, and we eventually escaped the clutches of that particular drift and carried on.

Rounding the corner off the road and into our driveway, I gulped at the enormity of the drift ahead.  Realizing that I did not have enough speed to plow through it, I decided to stop the truck, but I was too late.  We were stuck fast in the midst of a three-foot high snow bank.  I call it a snow bank, not a drift, because over the course of the day, the wind had been packing the snow in, tighter and tighter.  In fact the snow was solid enough for me to walk and stand on it — no sinking.  And I had managed to wedge John’s truck right into the midst of that bank of snow.  We were definitely stuck.

A 4-wheel drive stuck in a snow-drift that had blown in and blocked the driveway.

This picture gives you an idea of the size of the snow drift that was blocking our driveway (March 26, by the way!). The snow was the same height to beyond the right hand side of the photo, but when the picture was taken, the Massey Ferguson had already cleared most of it away.

The old Massey-Ferguson tractor proved its worth once again.  While I shoveled down under and around the front of the truck and all four tires, John started moving the majority of the heavily packed snow in front of the truck (extending forwards for about 12 feet) with the tractor bucket.  Soon I realized that the snow was packed so heavily that John’s attempts to empty the bucket were only half succeeding.  I had to scramble over the snow to where John had the tractor bucket upended, reach up, and poke at the packed snow with an ice chipper until the snow came cascading down.  Repeat.  And repeat.  And repeat.  And . . . well, you get the idea.

Two hours later, we had enough snow moved to try pulling the truck with the tractor.  Each attempt moved the truck marginally closer to freedom — until the tow rope snapped!  A few more pulls by the Massey Ferguson with a chain, and the truck was finally through the last bit of the drift.

After a very late supper, we enjoyed a good night’s sleep.  While we were sleeping, the south-east wind kept blowing.  When John went out to survey the situation mid-morning, he found that the driveway now had even more snow blown in than the previous afternoon!    What’s more, the drift now extended all the way to the main road.

Back to the Massey Ferguson.  (By the way, we have learned that we need to get something with a blade or a snowblower for next year, not just a bucket.  Moving snow with a front-end loader bucket is painfully slow.)  After another hour or more of moving snow, John was back in the house, not anywhere near finished, but the poor old tractor was gushing hydraulic fluid and he didn’t dare push it any further without fixing whatever seal had given way.  Of course we couldn’t get anywhere to get a new seal . . .

We phoned the original owners of the property and they gave us the name and number of the closest neighbour with a big tractor.  Soon Mr. Neighbour was there, in a nice shiny John Deere tractor, complete with cab and a big snowblower.  It didn’t take long for him to have our driveway clear and we headed back to town while we could, as the wind was still blowing and both John and I had to be at work Monday.  Offers of compensation for the neighbour’s time and trouble were turned aside with the words, “we’re neighbours”.

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