My Horseman, me, and the Grey Truck (Part Four)

Where did we leave off last time?

Right, right, we had just wrapped up our first summer at the ranch as a Mr. and Mrs…

As our second Colorado winter approached we were more prepared. We already owned winter gear and had figured out driving in the snow.

Clint worked at the same ski area, as a snow maker. (He had his sights set on being a groomer and this was the first step) I decided to do something different and found a job waiting tables at a snazzy restaurant down the hill from the ski area. Clint would be working nights as a snow maker so I figured it a bonus that I was mostly on nights too.

Our winter responsibilities for the ranch were pretty much the same as the year before: to feed the horses all winter. Clint had worked out a sweet deal with a neighbor to winter the ranch horses on his property. It was about 8 miles back on this winding little road into a canyon. The horses would be on grass for the first couple of months – a perfect way for them to unwind after wrapping up another busy summer season of guests. Once the snow began to fly, Clint and I would feed them each day until late spring.

 

Our feeding truck was an old 1970 something Ford.

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The Old Grey Truck

 

The grey truck. It was beat up inside and out. Clint and I had a constant battle over the seat placement. I couldn’t reach the pedals unless I scooted the seat up. But, it wasn’t a simple process. It took rocking back and forth while holding the lever. It took brute strength and some grunting. It took the stars being in full alignment to get that seat up to where I needed it. It took just as much to get it back; I didn’t figure the “putting it back” was my job. Clint is almost a foot taller than me so he couldn’t even get in until he got that seat back. But who was I to rob him of being able to exhibit his manly vigor by showing that seat who was boss?

But I digress…

The grey truck had a snow plow on the front (which I learned to operate like a pro, if I do say so myself) so I could push the snow to the side of the road as I made my way back to the pasture to feed. (We usually switched off feeding depending on our late night work schedules. Whoever worked later, got to sleep in the next day.) That plow also came in handy as an emergency brake.

Yes, an emergency brake.

The brakes in the truck were not so much for stopping as for slightly slowing down. The actual emergency brake had long ago given up the ghost. Fyi, the perk of driving in deep snow is that there’s always a snow bank you can run into if you really need to stop. However, if I was on the road and needed to stop, I just dropped that snow plow down nice and slow and it did the trick.

One bright, sunny, cold day that winter I was cruising home along that winding little road after finishing up an early morning feeding. I was on the schedule for a double shift that day and had to be in town for my first shift starting at 10 am. Feeding had gone well and I was going to have plenty of time for a quick shower to get the horsey smell off before I hauled my cookies into town.

All of a sudden I notice my plow is slowly dropping, Come On!

I work the levers (cause remember, I’m a pro at this point.), which to me means, just clicking them up and down and expecting something to happen. That plow just continues to drop until it’s flat on the ground and I’m scraping along. Ugh!

I stop, well actually, the plow stopped me. I got out and surveyed the situation. Yep, it was alllll the way down alright. Hmmm.

After fiddling with it for a while with no success, I had to come up with a plan. I couldn’t drive it home and risk wrecking the plow. And, I really had to get to work – no cell phones back then, friends.

I decided to leave the truck where it was – it wasn’t blocking the road. We’d figure that out later.

I start walking. In my heavy winter feeding gear and my heavy winter boots. Sigh

After about half a mile, I can look down and see my house. Probably two hundred feet below and across the frozen Colorado River. Such torture! Because to get to my house I had to keep walking all the way to the end of the little winding road. Then hoof it on foot down the main road and cross the bridge over the river to get home. Probably another three miles.

What if there was a way to just go straight down? 

In any other season, that drop was incredibly steep, no real footing and tons of trees. But in the winter, it was covered in snow. It looked like the Colorado sun had baked a nice shell on top.

Could I just slide down? I mean, I have slippery snow pants on. I could just sit and give myself a push. Will I go too fast? Will I be able to stop?

I went for it.

No, I did not go too fast. I did not go fast at all. It was not as slippery as I had hoped. No, I got just far enough down that I couldn’t go back up when I realized that I had made a mistake. I was sinking with every step. I had to hang on to brush and try to pull myself down because I kept sinking up to my thighs. I tried going down on my stomach, I sank. I tried running – more like trying to high step, you know, getting some momentum, I sank.

I don’t even know how long it took me to get down to the river. I was exhausted, sweaty and had brush scratches on my face (my only exposed skin). I crossed the frozen river and ambled to my house.

No time for a shower, I hurriedly threw on clean clothes, made an apologetic call to let work know I would be late and off to my double shift I went.

Yes, I chose “the road less traveled” and indeed, it made all the difference.

 

***Note: The plow had leaked hydraulic fluid. Clint had it fixed in under 5 minutes and from that day on, I did not go anywhere in the grey truck without a full bottle of hydraulic fluid.

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