Blizzard of 76 – Michigan

We lived in a Mobile Home on a small rural road several miles from town in Southern Michigan. My brother-in-law and his family lived in the Mobile Home down the road. My Wife’s parents lived in the House at the end of the road, the farmhouse for the family farm that we all lived on.

Snow was nothing new, so it was quite a surprise when we couldn’t open our outside doors in the morning. Both of our doors opened OUT and there was a wall of snow covering the lower 2/3 of the door, holding it closed. We spent some time slamming against the door to get it open enough to try digging snow out from the crack and letting it melt in the bathtub. THAT was pretty slow going, but we finally got the door open far enough that I could slip through the crack, if I was 3 feet taller. lol.

My brilliant plan was to get a running start and dive, sideways, through the crack in the doorway. Hopefully making the jump high enough to be on top of the snow. By golly, it worked! While the snow around the door had felt pretty solid from inside the house, that turned out to be a brash assumption.

The snow was unusually light and I fell right into the snow. Let me just say this about that. Being packed into a snow bank, where the surface of the snow is somewhere ABOVE you, can be a little frightening. But I soon learned that rolling back and forth seemed to pack the snow beneath me and eventually I was able to sit up and get my first glimpse of the outside.

A “blanket of snow” does NOT do it Justice. This “blanket” was several FEET thick! Most homes were buried up to their eaves, with only their roofs to make a mound where the house was. It took me most of the morning,after digging out my own door, to “roll” to my brother-in-law’s house. Yes, ROLL. This snow would NOT support much weight and trying to walk merely sunk your legs DEEP into the snow. So I returned to my childhood days and rolled my way across the snow and down the road. It’s NOT a fast mode of travel. lol

I thought when I reached my brother-in-law that all would be well, him being a snowmobile nut and all. But, alas, the snow would not even support the weight of the snowmobiles. But what’s that coming down the road? The Cavalry? Nope, that would be my Father-in-law, working his way down the road with his bulldozer! Farmers have all sorts of neat stuff.

I felt MUCH better being connected to family at least, and with all that rolling I was pretty tired too. I was ready to catch a ride home and call it a day. But Dad is a farmer, and there is work to be done. The pig farmer across the river needs help NOW. He had only dug the path to us to get us to come help. So the boys got to ride while Dad cut a road to the neighbor’s.

The problem the pig farmer had was that his pigs could not get to the feeders buried in the snow. Pigs were getting stuck in the snow and freezing to death. Apparently they hadn’t discovered the “roll” method yet. So there we were, chest deep in snow and ankle deep in pig muck, shoveling paths to the feeders and digging out dead pigs. Fun stuff. But damned if I didn’t feel like I was part of the farming community that day.

Finally, darkness closed in as we declared our efforts “good enough” and I finally got that ride home.

The next day I woke to the sounds of a snowmobile, the snow had settled enough to support the weight. All right, NOW we get to have some FUN! The snowmobile pulled up to my door. It was my brother-in-law and “daylight was burning”! Hurry up and get bundled up, we got WORK to do!

Spent the next couple days riding snowmobiles to check on all the neighbors, run errands, check on known shut-ins and elderly. We even did a “diaper run” for a couple who had run out of REAL diapers. We picked them up, drove them to a neighbor who washed and dried them, and then we returned with the clean diapers. We also had kind of a taxi service. Picking people up or dropping them off out at the main highway, which had been plowed.

I only had one other “near miss”. I have NO IDEA WHY I stopped right there, or what it was that I was going to do once I got OFF the snowmobile. But I VIVIDLY remember “hopping off” the snowmobile, and sinking straight down into the snow! I managed to grab the running board as I fell and ended up dangling from that tenuous grip in some DEEP snow! Going straight in like I had, I wasn’t real convinced that I would be able to move at all. Let alone roll back and forth. With my arms over my head, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be digging myself out. I’m trying to think quickly, but I’m coming up blank. Then I’m suddenly reminded that snowmobile mittens are NOT the best choice when holding on for dear life. Fear took over and I managed to scramble and pull myself up. When I finally got my knees up on the running board I just laid there draped over the seat, counting my many blessings, for quite a while.

For me, it was one of my most amazing adventures. Not only to witness such a force of nature, but also to have been part of the “rescue effort”. To have been exposed to ALL those experiences and been one of the ones helping. And then to realize that without the influence of my “farmer family”, the in-laws, I would have missed it all. It was tough work sometimes, but the rewards were immediate and lasting.

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