Monday, December 29, 2008

Earning my keep around the old homestead

I spent the weekend back in Eastern Oregon, visiting family for the holidays. I got to relive a little of my youth too, as I did a few chores while I was home.

When I arrived at my folks' place Friday evening, after braving some icy roads through the Columbia Gorge and freezing rain in Interstate 84 from Boardman to the Hermiston/Lexington exit, I was relieved to see my parents' home as I drove south on the Buttercreek Highway. Little did I know, the most treacherous part of my drive was still to come. As I slowed to turn into the driveway, I could see the ruts of tire tracks through the deep snow leading up the hill. I turned in, picking what looked to be the clearest tracks and headed up the hill only to feel the traction give way on the back wheels of my pickup. The tires started to spin, sending the back end of the truck sideways.

I just knew I would end my journey trudging the final 50 yards of my trip through a foot of snow carrying my luggage.

Fortunately, there is not a traffic on the road in front of my parents' house, so I backed down the driveway and onto the highway, which had been cleared of snow. I backed as far as I could without getting my back tires into the snowy shoulder to get a run at the driveway again. But I wasn't at all confident that I would get great traction as I had been driving in freezing drizzle for the last 30-40 miles. But I was sure I wanted to drive up to the house far more than than walk, I accelerated as quickly as I could without spinning the tires and charged the hill.

This time I carried more speed into the driveway and was able to keep the truck churning and slipping forward, but still making progress up the hill. I reached the house, tired from a long trip on difficult roads, but relieved to be home safe and sound.

Saturday, fortunately brought some warmer weather and the snow and ice were starting to melt. But I wasn't sure if things might freeze again. Since I had another obligation in Pilot Rock Saturday afternoon and evening, I didn't want to try to navigate an icy driveway on my return. So I decided to work on some snow removal.

I started off clearing snow, ice and slush off the sidewalks around the house. Fortunately, my brother Ron pitched in too, to save a little strain on my middle-aged back.

The driveway proved a bigger challenge. The battery was dead on the old Ford tractor, and my father informed me that the hydraulics to lift the blade weren't working either. So, I used why I had at my disposal, which was my truck and its tires. I made repeated trips up and down the driveway, trying to break up the deepest spots in the snow and widen the ruts to more than a single tire track in width. Perhaps predictably, the results were less than satisfactory.

At one point I found myself, scoop shovel in hand, trying to clear snow and slush at the bottom of the driveway.

It turned out that I needn't have worried. The meltoff continued throughout the day and the temperature stayed above freezing all evening, so there were no problems getting up the driveway later that night. And by the time I woke up Sunday, the snow was all but gone in the yard and driveway.

But if felt good to get out and do a little physical work around the ol' place. The exercise was good, but the biggest satisfaction came from pitching in without being asked — or ordered — to do so. I used to hate those sorts of chores as a kid. It seemed I was always being directed to do lawn or weed mowing, or watering, or wash cars (or trucks or airplanes) around the place. I hated it all. But this was different. It felt good to do something because it was my idea and it was something I wanted to do. Never mind that Mother Nature did the job I was trying to do much more effectively all on her own. For a few hours, it was easier to walk around the house and navigate the driveway because I got out there to put in some sweat equity.

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