Nature photography, political rants, and Martyman laughs from the ten-time award-winning author of "Cool Creatures, Hot Planet," "Endangered Edens," and the "Time Is Irreverent" series.

The Montana did-out party

I love living at the foot of the mountains in Montana . . . most of the time. Our house is in a wooded area, on a private dirt road, and the last third of a mile is up a steep hill. At the top is Deb’s and my house and three other houses. Consequently, all road maintenance is our collective responsibility. If you follow my posts, you know that a record three feet of snow dumped on us over the past several days.

Two of my neighbors have four-wheelers with plows, and they managed a car-width path down our road, but with no place to put the snow, that was all they could do. That meant crossing our fingers we wouldn’t meet a car on a blind corner, coming the other way. Also, nothing as large as a fire truck or a propane truck would stand a chance on the road. In fact, we were due for propane delivery and had to tell the truck not to come up.

I have a list of people with heavy duty snow removal equipment, but with the entire Bitterroot Valley socked in, our regular help was a week away. One person who said he could come faster, got stuck on another job, called a tow truck, which also got stuck, and had to call a second tow truck—then his plow broke. Another person, who we had never used before, said he had a big truck and plow and that he could do it. Unfortunately, he made it to the bottom of our hill, freaked out, and hightailed it in the opposite direction!

Left on our own, yesterday afternoon I contacted the neighbors and put together a dig-out party. Using my snowblower—which could throw the snow over the high banks—Deb and I, and three shovel wielding neighbors (a woman, a man, and a 13-year-old boy) worked for five hours and completely dug out our third-mile-long hill. We’ll deal with the lower section of our mile-long-road later.

Yay! We will now be able to get propane delivered next week. Having previously dug out our driveway three times in the past few days, I’m a bit stiff and sore today, but the feeling of accomplishment more than makes up for it.

The best line of our dig-out party was when the neighbor woman turned to Deb and said, “I’m too old for this!” and then found out that Deb was quite a few years older than she was (I won’t say how many). Deb grew up on a farm and still has that farm girl strength and stamina. For such a little thing, she’s the toughest woman I know.

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