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Front Page » February 15, 2005 » Opinion » The solution to the problems in life is often right in th...
Published 3,537 days ago

The solution to the problems in life is often right in the barnyard


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate community editor

A few weeks before Christmas, as most Carbon residents know, it got as cold as a beer at the bottom of a big cooler full of ice on New Years Eve. It was during that period of sub zero and near sub zero temperatures that one morning I came close to being one of the stories in this newspaper.

Well maybe not. The Sun Advocate usually doesn't report idiotic deaths.

That morning I arose at my general time of 5:45 a.m. I can't remember what day of the week it was, but it must have either been a Monday or a Wednesday, because I was up earlier than usual to get to work and that only happens on the production days for the paper.

Anyway, I got up and shivered as the cold wood floor in my bedroom froze the bottom of my feet. I quickly turned on the hot water in the shower in the master bath, and jumped in. I warmed up considerably and as the warm liquid ran down my face.

After finishing the shower I put on the usual garb for feeding all the animals in the back 40; old Levis and sweat shirt and some old boots that had certainly seen their better days.

I walked out the door and immediately knew this was not a normal morning. Usually when the back door opens the dogs in the kennel behind my garage go off like an alarm, but there was not a peep. There was also another sign of a difference that morning; the hairs in my nose stuck together faster than super glue bonds two of my fingers together when I try to use it on a project. In other words it was darn cold.

I crunched my way down the path toward the garage in the snow that remained. It sounded and felt like I was walking on Styrofoam. I looked at the thermometer on the front of the garage. It said -5 but more telling were the two happy looking pigs that are portrayed on it's face. I did a double taken because in the dim light they looked like they were shivering.

None of the dogs in the kennel were out of their houses, despite the fact that these Alaskan and Siberian huskies have some of the best winter coats in the world. As I put the food in a bucket to feed each of them, one or two stirred a little, but still didn't emerge from their houses, until I had made a trip to nearly all the kennels. When they did, they ate quickly and then dashed back into the doghouses snuggling themselves into the warm straw.

I found myself envying them. I wished I was still in a warm bed and didn't have to face the day.

That had gone smoothly. No stuck latches because of the frost. No sick dogs because of the cold and no slips by me on the ice on the kennel walkways.

Then the trouble began. As I fed my sons horse I noted that the pigs were low on water, so I went to the ground hydrant and started to fill a five gallon bucket. As I traversed the snowy and icy lane to the pig water trough, I hit a patch of ice, and like a motorist who doesn't know how to steer when a car goes into a skid I turned this way, then that way, then the wrong way and I went down.

If it wasn't bad enough that I lie prone on top of frozen mud and crunchy snow, the full bucket of water went up in the air, turned over as it rolled and spewed it contents up and down me as if someone was controlling the flow at just the right angle to soak me completely.

I cussed. And then I cussed some more.

I got up, filled the bucket again, and finally filled the pigs water trough. All through this I could feel the moisture soaking through my coat and my jeans, slowly, then more quickly, turning to ice. By the time I reached the house I was starting to act like the tin man from the Wizard of Oz before Dorothy gave him a shot of oil.

But instead of going right in and warming myself up I took the house keys out of my pocket and started the car to warm it up for my trip to work. I then went to the house and attempted to get in the back door.

It was locked; I had locked it when I went down to feed the animals. So, with more cussing, I went to the car to get my keys so I could get in.

It too, was locked. Motor running, radio blaring, heat going, locked.

I started to ponder how I could get in the house and get my extra set of keys to unlock the car when it dawned on me that I was getting really cold; colder than I ever remember.

I could try to arouse my teenage son sleeping in his room, but as past experience had taught me that would have been a Rip Van Winkle like experience.

I stood there wondering whether the cost of breaking a window would equal the pain of getting pneumonia. The window won; but I decided rather than break a window I would pry one open instead because it would be easier to secure afterward. I went down to my garage to get a big screwdriver, but I couldn't turn the dial on the combination lock to the door with the frozen soaked gloves I had on. So I took them off and tried to do it with my frozen soaked hands.

The minute I touched the metal on the lock my fate was sealed. The moisture on my hands seemed to bond with the metal and there my hand was stuck.

I finally managed to get the combination right and the lock came loose, but it was still stuck to my hand. Because of the way it was looped into to the hasp, I couldn't get it off to open the door. I considered ripping my hand from the lock and in the process losing a good chuck of skin, but the way my day was going I figured I would instead leave my entire hand behind.

As I stood there I felt the insidious cold dig deeper into my body. I knew then I was going to die. I was going to be found frozen to a cheap combination lock. I could see the headlines in the paper now; "Local reporter makes own story" or something like "Community editor gets permanent writers block."

I also began to regret things I had written in the past, particularly when I had quoted people who weren't at their best when they said things. Sure they had said those things, but I didn't have to repeat them. I was sure someone would make arrangements for those very people to speak at my funeral.

As I could feel each hair on my head begin to freeze, I realized I must either pull away ripping the skin off of my typing fingers or find a pocket knife with which to cut my hand off, ala the guy who was trapped in the slot canyon last summer. Otherwise I would soon turn into a human popsicle, and with what I had landed in when I fell it would have been a barnyard flavored one.

Suddenly I felt something brush against my leg. It was my barnyard cat called Missy. I pushed her away with my foot. I was in no mood to be loved by a cat at the moment. Soon I would be frozen and she could use me for a clawing post.

I looked down at her, and her think hair coat and wished I was that wrapped up, warm and not wet. I looked up at the stars in the sky; the cold glowing stars. I felt Missy brush my legs again and heard her meow. I was about to push her away again when I realized the solution to my problem was right at my feet and it was in the form of a feline.

I knelt down as far as I could and she came too me. I picked her up with my right hand; just as I thought, warm as pavement on a July day. I put her little furry body right on top of the lock towhich my hand was attached. Fortunately she cooperated without too much trouble. Within 60 second I could feel the lock start to warm up. Then my hand came undone and I could open the door.

Now I'm not in the habit of kissing cats since I am a dog guy, but on that morning I gave the furry bundle a great big kiss on her head.

Still frozen, I was nonetheless able to retrieve a screwdriver and force open a window. I crawled through and fell on the floor, which had seemed so cold when I went into the shower, but now felt like a sauna. I laid there for a minute, knowing I would now live.

I celebrated in my mind like it was a triumph of the human spirit and ingenuity, but I really knew what it was instead.

Dumb luck.


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February 15, 2005
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