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Voices of Spencer Creek

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Winter Storms

What an Opener for a New Year!

By Lois Barton

Posted on Jan 21, 2004

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"Snowy River Landscape," by Arthur G. Rider (1886-1975), American neo-impressionist, courtesy of the Treadway

We awoke to start the new year on our usual schedule, about 7:30 am, little dreaming of the unusual adventures awaiting us. The first thing I noticed while dressing was big flakes of snow falling and maybe three inches accumulation on the ground since an earlier look out the window about three hours before had showed bare ground. By breakfast time there was five or six inches and it added up to nine inches before it stopped snowing.

I made some hot cakes for breakfast. Just as I spooned the last of the batter onto the electric gridle, the power went off. But our food was ready so we ate without particularly missing the light at the dining table.

Perhaps half an hour later our neighbor Ted came to the door reporting a tree down over our driveway. He'd been out checking the electric line to his place and came down our driveway because this would be the route for a repair truck to fix his line.

About that time our neighbor Mike, also without electric power, phoned to share his chagrin as he watched three, big fir trees fall just above his house.The trees were top heavy with several inches of wet snow which had come down onto completely unfrozen, water-saturated ground. Since fir trees have no tap root, pushed by a wind, their rootballs can let loose and became vertical in a moment.

Not long after that Mike walked up to the public road several hundred feet up our joint driveway. As he walked he heard the thump as more trees fell, this time across the driveway ahead of him. He counted eight trees down there, in each case including the upturned rootball.

So there we were mid-morning of New Year's Day. No electric power and at least nine big trees blocking our outlet to the public road.

Our son Steve, and son-in-law Frank went to work clearing the driveway. After a start with power saws, Frank went home for a peavy and chain so they could hitch to the sawed logs and pull them off the road with his 4 wheel drive pickup. I put on my boots and walked up with Morgan to see the mess for myself that afternoon. It was 4:30 pm before they had the road open for pickups.

I hunted up all the candles in the house and made plans for fixing supper. The top of the small Norwegian heating stove in the kitchen has a flat top with room for three or four pots at once, and with a good fire inside cooks quite well. We had an early supper by candle light.

Supper over and daylight gone we had only candles to light our evening activities, There is also a fireplace insert for heat in the living room. No TV. No computer. Not enough light to read by, and so to bed about seven p.m. The baseboard heating unit in the bedroom was obviously out of commission, so an extra cover on the bed assured adequate warmth for the night.

This old farmhouse's water supply runs down hill from a masonry encased spring which was developed about seventy years ago. When the neighborhood has an extended power outage this is almost the only household in the area with a dependable water supply. That and the wood fires make the difference between serious discomfort –neither heat nor water and no way to cook –and a nuisance time of making-do without modern conveniences that we ordinarily take for granted.

We spent twelve hours in bed that first night. There was really no use getting up before daylight since we are retired folks with no job to go to if one could get out. The same situation led to two more twelve hour shifts in bed the next two nights.

Our usual routine has for years included access to a morning newspaper. Under ordinary circumstances I drive up for the paper right after breakfast. While Hal peruses the news, I do the crossword and cryptoquote puzzles before turning to the usual morning chores of dishes and bedmaking.

All the twigs and small branches from clearing those trees on top of nine inches of wet snow created a high center in the road too deep for my little Honda to cross safely, so I was grounded until thawing reduced that rubble.

Our power was off for 4 days and three nights. We were dependent on good neighbors to bring us the paper and the mail from about half a mile away. When the snow began to melt it was followed by freezing rain and ice underfoot, as well as all over trees and wires. Would this continued freezing weather lead to more power outages?

On the seventh day of the new year things finally were enough back to normal for me to drive up to the public road for the mail. What an episode of being "grounded" under challenging circumstances! We will long remember the dramatic winter-dominated beginning of the year 2004.

Copyright © 2004 by Lois Barton

Now Available on Compact Disk:

Stories from The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte

Three and a half years of years Lois Barton's stories–so you can read them without going online!

Lois Barton's Selected Works

Volume I, Chanticleer's Tales

Send $10, plus postage of $1.50



84889 Harry Taylor Rd.

Eugene, OR 97405

Writer and historian
Lois Barton
Lois Barton is an 85 year old mother of eight children. She has lived on the same rural acreage just south of Eugene, Oregon for more than 50 years. All their children learned to milk, to keep the woodboxes filled, to do their share of household and garden chores. Her first book, Spencer Butte Pioneers, was published in 1982 when her youngest started to school. Since then she wrote five other books: Daughter of the Soil, now out of print; One Woman's West; A Quaker Promise Kept; and Through My Window, autobiographical sketches, sequel to Daughter Of the Soil.

Through the years Lois has been a 4H leader, president of the neighborhood association, a precinct committee woman, election board clerk, editor of the Lane County Historian, and a life long Quaker. She spent a month in Southeast Asia in 1974 as a member of a church peace mission, after working for ten years as director of the Eugene Chapter of the World Without War Council.

Visit the Sunnyside of Spencer Butte Section in our new format for more of Lois' stories. See more of Lois Barton's articles in West By online magazine's archives:

Visit the Heron Rookery

Sauerkraut and All That

Charlotte's Overdose - Just who is Charlotte and what did she take?

The Midwife - The midnight call awoke an unusual midwife.

The Mystery of Fox Hollow - Fact and fiction meet in this story of the origins of Faith Rock.

Trees, Tame Trees and Squirrel.

© Copyright 2000-2004 by West By

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