The winds had howled louder than any pack of coyotes and wolves put together. Those winds had taken the foot of snow that fell in the night and hurled it on to the last bit of road out of the ranch. As Daphne listened, the howling began to morph into yelling. Phrases like “Montana sucks in winter” and “You are crazy as hell and you’re not going to take it anymore, are you?” and, of course, “We gotta get out of this place, if it’s the last thing we ever do,” came screaming at her from outside.
Earlier in the day, she had got out and got back albeit with a bit of maneuvering. So she thought that 4 hours later it might still be possible to get out. Of course, there was always the “upper gate”. This is the gate next to the cattle guard which opens up into the North pasture that borders the frontage road. Once thru this gate it’s fairly easy to ride over the rocky yet level field and go out another gate on to the frontage road. This is never “drifted in”. However, for 20 years Daphne has complained that the “gate” is impossible for her to close. It’s really really tight. She can get it open, but then can’t get the darn post back in it’s wire hoop. Plus she can’t open the barbed wire gate without shredding her good coat. Since fashion is always more of a consideration that practicality, Daphne prefers to try to go out the main entrance.
But even Daphne had become practical in the last two weeks since the weather has been just terrible with snow drifting and temperatures in the teens and lower, demanding that she wise up. So, she took to carrying a Carhartt canvas jacket in the front seat just in case she had to open the upper gate. She still couldn’t close the thing, but the cows are mostly way down the other pasture and rarely come up to this gate, so it’s safe to leave it open for an hour or two.
Even so, as Daphne neared the cattle guard and seeing that Cowboy Clay had not opened the upper gate, she decided to plow her way through the drifts. Recklessly, she gunned the motor of the All Road and drove over the cattle guard and into the first drift which was a tad bit harder and less fluffy than she thought. Her heart lept to her throat as the car came to a dead stop in the next drift.
“Oh, now I’ll just have to back up,” she thought positively. “I can still get back to that upper gate”. Ha! How wrong she was. When she put the car in reverse, she could feel her rear tires sink into the snow even deeper. Daphne was stuck in the cold and howling wind a half mile from the ranch. Darn. Her only good option was to call Clay. She’d have to anyway as somebody was going to have to get her out of this jam. Thank god this was 2015 and she had a cell phone. But cell phones got people into pickles that they would never get in to otherwise. If she had no phone, there was no way she would have attempted her escape. Cell phones are a devil’s tools, she thought.
“I’m stuck in the drift,” she quivered softly into the phone when Clay finally answered.
“You’re shittin’ me!”, he exclaimed.
“No,” she wimpered.
“All right, I’ll be there in a little bit,” he growled.
And so she waited in the dark and forbidding night. In about fifteen minutes (the trip from town takes six which was another indication that Clay was pissed) she saw the lights of a truck turn into the upper gate and come to the cattle guard. Clay got out and went to the back of the Audi. He lay down on his back into the deep snow and pushed his way through the snow and under the rear of the car. (It’s times like these when Daphne’s heart gets all full with her admiration and love for the strength and fortitude of this man. Plus he fixes things.)
”Where the hell do you put the chains?” he growled.
”I don’t know,” Daphne sighed.
”Well then find out while I get the tractor and some shovels,” he barked as he went back to the truck.
Daphne climbed back into the car and reached for the jockey box and retrieved the Audi manual. In a few minutes Clay was back this time with the tractor and proceeded to clear the drifts between the car and the cattle guard with the front loader. He then clambered down into the snow.
“It looks like there is some gizmo in with the spare tire that screws into some thing on the bumper,” she told him.
“Start digging out the front,” he said as he felt along the bumper and found said “thing” and then opened up the rear hatch door and pulled open the compartment where the spare tire was and foun the “gizmo” which looked like a large eye bolt.
The wind was blowing hard and she could hardly see him as she shoved the shovel down behind the front wheel thinking, “Is that why it’s called a shovel ‘cause you shove it?” and also thinking how heavy the snow was. She kept at it for over 20 minutes as Clay did the same around the rear end. By the time she was digging out in front of the rear tires, she was thinking about heart attacks which happen from shoveling snow. She was breathing hard and a little worried.
Suddenly Clay yelled out, “That’s enough. Get in the car,” which she promptly and gratefully did.
He came over to the window, “Start the car, put it in reverse and wait for me to get the chain taunt and then when the car starts to move give it just a little gas, but not too much. Don’t want to have it swing into the gate.” He pointed his finger at her. “Take it easy.” He then took two more powerful scoops of the shovel around the rear tire and trudged back to the tractor.
Soon Daphne felt the chain tighten and her car start to move. With her heart in her throat she gave it a little gas and said a little prayer to the gods of stupid stuff that women do when they aren’t thinking straight. The car started moving backwards. What a relief. But then it started to slide a bit to the right and at that angle was not going to clear the gate. She could see Clay ‘s hands go up in the air in the cab of the tractor. But then the car righted itself and slowly it made it’s way back into the middle of the lane and then she felt the cattleguard and saw the left post go by about a foot from her window. And then she was through.
She backed the car into the field and turned the car around as Clay approached her.
“Thank you.” She paused a murmured, “I don’t suppose we are going to town?”
”I am and your going home,” he replied.
”I’m being punished. I get it.”
”Yes, you are being punished.”
”I deserve it.”
”Yes, you do.”
She put the window up and sighed. Just then Clay’s big gloved hand grabbed the door handle and opened the door.
”Park the car over there and we’ll get it later,” he said.
Daphne’s eyes began to water with happiness. She backed the car up and parked it by the side of the gate and ran as fast as she could to the truck and hauled herself up, pushed the rifle and the bailing twine aside and sank into the seat.
They didn’t say much as they bumped along the field and through the upper gate.
”That snow was really heavy. I thought I was going to have a heart attack, she said.
”I know. I had you dig just enough so that you would understand how serious the situation was so you wouldn’t do anything that stupid again,” he sternly said.
She looked at him with the ache of love.
Then he sighed, “You’ve got to be careful in this weather. You know that.”
”I know. But I get really lonely.”
”I know you do. But lonely is better than freezing to death.”
“I will add it to my long list of cowboy wisdom. It is a fine example of ‘The Tao of Cow.’”
“It’s a fine example of “The Tao of Don’t Do Stupid Shit.”
And with that they laughed for the first time that night.