My dogs are starting to get really confused and paranoid about how enthusiastically they want to greet each morning’s dive off the deck to perform their duties of a delicate nature.
One morning they’ll belly flop into freshly drifted snow and the next day they splash down in conditions requiring flippers and a snorkel.
If that isn’t bad enough, occasionally the weather conditions make an even sneakier overnight transition and the curs, depending on their exit speed, launch into Earth escape velocity onto lurking glare ice that sends them howling into surrounding half-melted snow berms.
Needless to say, such conditions are not conducive to completing their personal tasks with appropriate dignity so once they stop bouncing around like fuzzy pin balls they skulk back to the steps glaring at me like it was my fault.
I ignore them because I’m usually flat on my butt trying to retrieve the newspaper while my snickering spouse stands on the deck waving the cleats she recommended before my manly foray across the parking area.
What can I say? It is winter on the Kenai and everyone is getting a taste, some more than others, especially if they regularly travel the area’s highways.
My buddy Turk is one of those roadrunners and he has had his moments the last month or so.
A few weeks back, he was ensnarled in some foul driving conditions on both the Seward and Sterling highways and had to “white knuckle it” for hours before breaking through the chaos just south of Clam Gulch.
When I sympathized that it must have been one wicked trip, he just smirked and snorted, “At I least don’t turn into ‘Drama Dude’ when things get a little tough. Remember years back when you nearly ghosted yourself twice in whiteout conditions coming south out of Cooper Landing?”
“Hey man, it was twenty-plus-some years ago. I was driving a truck so old I used plastic sheeting as mats to stop crud from coming through the floorboards. Besides, it was dark and I was fighting vertigo … never mind.”
Turk quipped back, “Yeah but I’m not going to write a poemette saga about my little episode.”
At first, I couldn’t figure out what he was rambling on about and then a dim light flickered on.
He was confusing the harrowing Cooper Landing ride with a different incident back in the age of unpaved highways when I had a highly annoying experience on a wicked piece of gravel notorious for poor maintenance.
During a sudden ice storm, I ended up precariously perched in a ditch after nearly four-wheeling through a pothole large enough to swallow a politician’s ego.
I was so p.o.’d, I decided to write a letter-to-the-editor about the thoroughfare mess.
It went like this:
(With my very deep apologies to Edgar Allan Poe whose poetic vehicle “The Raven” gave me the conveyance to relate my tale of driving misery.)
Once upon a midday dreary, while I drove, weak and weary
‘round many a black hole oozing slush and gore
While I bounced, not nearly napping, suddenly there came a rapping,
As if something not gently rapping, rapping near my pickup’s door.
Only this and nothing more.
Thus I drove, engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
About the road; foul condition burning deeply unto my core.
“Whose fault?” I cried, driving, with head impacting lining
on ceiling’s binding. Constantly reeling… I then implore
“Please, East End, nothing more!”
Abruptly stopping, with a shudder, flinging shocks into the gutter
ghastly grim, masked with grit, ole truck, no longer one of yore
it steamed and wheezed, then hemorrhaged antifreeze.
Next off came with hideous screech, the battered passenger door.
Yet I scarcely more than muttered, “On damn beast, this I implore.”
It merely backfired, “Nevermore.”
Once snarling, dog Howard, ‘tis now whimpering coward
and will not ride since, thru the sunroof launched, his mistress Elenore.
I do not miss their yapping, yet wait, another rapping? Rapping near my door?
Whence down the hole where I a, sitting, I sense something flitting,
Under steel’s frame quietly easing, then bumping, ‘neath the floor.
“’Tis an earthquake, nothing more.”
Then the truck rose, hence racing heart froze.
“What horror!” I screamed, and then railed,” Not one bit more!”
Yet it kept tilting, body rising, while I’m surmising,
What monster lurked beneath my dead truck’s floor.
A seismic rupture spewing death from buried core?
T’was a grader, nothing more.
The blade shook me free, then began to flee,
toward town, on fire-sparked chains, it tore,
with driver’s wailing yell that he had escaped from hell.
Angrily, I raged, as torrid temper commenced to soar,
“I beseech thee sir, heal this apocalypse, we desire a path, nothing more!”
Quote the craven, “Never more!”
It’s strange how things worked out after that little ditty’s publication.
The road maintenance didn’t improve a bit but I ended up being offered my first job as a columnist.
Sometimes good things do come from bad situations but trust me, getting buried in a trench during an Icemageddon is not a lucid way to seek inspiration.
By the way Turk, I’d do it again.
Nick can be reached at email@example.com if he isn’t in cleats chasing his skidding mutts down the driveway hill.