My granddad used to say that it was a bleak day in Wyoming when the first rancher started putting up hay to feed in winter, rather than trailing the cattle back south to someplace warm. He maintained that single mistake convinced folks that they could live in Wyoming through a winter.
Conceived, as I was, during the Blizzard of ’49, one would think that I would be accustomed to cold and snow by now. Seventy-two years oughta be plenty of time to make my peace with a season that has tried to kill me on several occasions. But that is not the case.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I have a deep respect for winter, and I understand intellectually the tilt of Earth on its axis and where I live latitude-wise. I understand the Newtonian laws of thermodynamics and how electrons slow down when they get tired. I understand it but I don’t like it.
I still consider winter to be a design flaw in the universe.
My opinion of winter was reinforced every time I harnessed a team to a haysled at twenty below to feed cattle that would have been happier in South Texas, regardless of the bugs, stickers and snakes.
Every time that I had to drain oil from the vehicles and equipment at the ID, and bring the buckets inside to set by the furnace just so things would start in the morning, I was reminded that something about this whole deal is just wrong.
So I have to shake my head at all those folks who intentionally come to Wyoming in winter to have fun. I’ve seen pictures of them, dressed in shiny ski bum finery and snowboard chic, cavorting in glistening powder – Mom, Dad, Buddy and Sis – rosy-cheeked and healthy, with apres-ski cocoa waiting for them back at the lodge.
I have to contrast this scene with me getting snowed in for eleven days at Remount a few years ago. Poor planning on my part led to me running out of Copenhagen with the road still under deep drifts.
Desperation prompted me to consider fashioning a pair of snowshoes out of willows and rawhide so I could walk six miles to the Buford store and score some chew.
I’m glad I didn’t venture out in that white, frozen death. My bones and belt buckle is all that would have been found in the spring under circling buzzards.
If folks are so enamored of Wyoming in winter, let ‘em get horseback on a day when they need to change stirrups to fit the paks or five-buckles that are the only way to keep their feet from freezing.
Let ‘em ride with me on a sub-zero day with a blanket of fresh snow and not a cloud in the sky while the sunlight reflecting off the snow slowly cooks their eyeballs, sunglasses or not.
Tourists would probably pay good money to go snowblind twenty miles from the house, where all they can see is black and all they can do is give the horse his head to see if he can get them out of the jam.
They’d be all smiles, after stumbling blind for a couple hours in rough country, to hear the metallic clink as the wind blows the latch chain on the horse trailer and they realize they are not gonna die.
I don’t want to sound too harsh on the season, though. Christmas is in winter, and I’ve loved Christmas ever since I was a bundled up little kid, standing out in the windblown yard forty miles from town with snot frozen on my upper lip, listening for sleighbells.
Merry Christmas, y’all. Stay warm!