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Saturday, February 21, 2015


wild turkey stretches in the sun

The mother of invention, necessity, drove me through the plowed snowbank between the car and the road after the day had warmed up a little. With rear wheel drive, it would have required some snow shovel work. Front wheel drive can get momentum running backwards through the car length of clear ground under the car, pushing the rear wheels through the mound of snow. The rear wheels clear tracks for the front wheels to get a grip on going through the snow. It took a wee bit of slipping and sliding, nowhere near a concern, just ice. Returned easily through the tracks made by departure. The six inches of snow has shrunk down to about four inches, though now it's icy from sun warming the surface during the day, melting just enough to make a thin crust of ice in the night. Front wheel drive, new tires, a car that runs perfectly, dependably, good center of gravity, a car I've driven in snow, ice, mud, over meadows. I take it anyplace I'd take a pickup. I use the back seat as a small pickup bed. Back seat and trunk, I have a an enclosed pickup. It has a big trunk. I needed to go to Carpenter's house to pick up two gallons of water for a week of morning coffee. I'd walked up the driveway three times in this snow and Justin drove his truck up and down it. It already had tracks and I knew the snow between the tracks was not too deep for the car. I had a mound of snow at the edge of the road to crash through and spin the front tires through, sliding this way and that, and come out the other side. Driving up the tracks was the same as without snow. Returning to the road was a slip-n-slide adventure for a moment. 

two turkeys

I need to hit those places with enough momentum to force my way at least half through and let the spinning tires use the momentum I'm able to provide for them to pull it the rest of the way. Let the momentum stop and that's it. Stuck as soon as it stops. Then there's no going forward or backward. I've learned the subtleties of driving on snow and ice with this car over the course of six winters. I've driven front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, all of them several years apiece, to know how to drive mountain roads in every condition with each one. Four-wheel is awfully good. It will take hold of about anything, even sheer ice if you know how to handle it. Four-wheel is handy. Now that I'm not working, don't need to be hauling things like ladders, toolboxes, shovels and so on, taking trash bags to the dump and hauling three bales of hay from the barn to the donkeys is all the hauling I do anymore. The trunk handles it fine. I've found the limits of front-wheel drive, places it would not go that I knew four-wheel could make it. Not many. Not enough to make the difference in expense and weight worth it. Front wheel drive, the weight of the engine is where it's needed, between the front wheels. Every fall I buy two new front tires and put the ones from the front on the back. I like having new tires on the front to pull me through winter. This old car doesn't look like much, but the motor and the driving train are in excellent running condition. I have a good mechanic who keeps it there. Any little thing new that comes up, I tell him the sound or the symptom, and like the guys on Car Talk, he knows what it is. He knows the engine of this car literally inside out, having worked on them at a dealership for a number of years when it was new. It just so happens he knows everything about my car. And, he's Crystal's daddy, Vada's grandpa. 

two turkeys

Main reason to go to town was birdseed. I was out of sunflower seeds. I buy that other mixed birdseed and the birds peck maybe half of it, but they take all the sunflower seeds. Nothing is left but pieces of shell all over the snow. The sunflower seed keeps the birds warm at night, keeps their joints greased, brightens their feathers. And the red squirrels. I've made my feral neighbors somewhat dependent, dependent by expectation. I don't want to leave them without for a day, especially when the ground is covered with snow and ice and it's zero at night. Little chickadees need something in the morning right away. I have to take carrots to the donkeys first and give them their hay. The moment I step out the door, Jack brays, Jenny attempts a bray that sounds like a high-pitched hound's bark. They're hopping up and down, Ice Cream Man finally woke up and has carrots. Carrots make them so happy in the morning they dance. Carrot time is happy time. Next is hay. Chickadees, titmice, snowbirds in the trees overhead call to me to come on with breakfast. The donkeys are ready to graze immediately. Carrots I buy every trip to town. The grocery store sells a big bunch of them for three dollars. It's like giving a kid ice cream. A bag a week. I'm happy to give them that. Was running low on sweet grain for the donkeys, would need some before Monday. A fifty pound bag of grain and a forty pound bag of birdseed from two different hardware stores. I could have bought both from one, but like to give my business to both places. It's my small support for each one. I don't have a great deal to offer, but what I have is best given to people I support. I feel like buying anything is a gesture of support for whoever made it and is selling it, be it working in an American sweatshop in Malaysia, or a regional band selling CDs and tshirts. I want to buy everything I need in Sparta. Exceptions like books, shoes and paint, I get online. I don't have much to support the local economy with, but what I have is given in the spirit of support.   

shadow on the snow

The grocery store packed with people on a Friday afternoon, never feeling congested, registers flowing with the traffic. Didn't see many people I knew. Parking lot packed. Everybody taking a breather, getting out, restocking some food. I tend to stay away from town on Friday afternoons when the traffic is from hell, the kind that makes people from Atlanta exclaim, "What traffic?" when I complain about Friday afternoon traffic in a town with three lights. Today was no choice. Needed water. Birds and donkeys calling. Low on catfood too. I felt comfortable, at home, where I belong. And, of course, spent twice what I intended going in. I don't pay attention to what I spend at the grocery store. If I don't buy it this time, I will next time,. It's all going to the same place. Grocery store done, went to the liquor store and bought a fifth of Wild Turkey Rye, good sipping liquor. Drove home with a six-inch chunk of ice on the hood, top and trunk lid. Mine was the only car in town with Monday's snow still on it, frozen solid. Even driving 63 through Thompson Flat didn't blow it loose. It will melt in a few days. Had to scrape ice from the windshield and free the wipers stuck in ice. The car started first crank, like in summer. I love a car that starts easily and dependably at zero. The drive to town and back was one of the beautiful days of the year when the mountain landscape is good as it gets, all in snow, clear sky with wispy clouds, and such a relief to have temperature above twenty. Talking with a woman at the gas station, she said we're having a heat wave. Any other time, twenty would be way too cold, but today, twenty was a welcome relief. The donkeys felt it too. They could graze with one side to the sun as to the fireplace, warm their bones before another cold night. 

donkey trail to the watering hole


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