WINTER SURVIVAL

We didn’t host Thanksgiving this year.  Instead, we went to our granddaughter’s house because it’s big enough to hold the most relatives and is centrally located.  The reason I mention this is because what happened illustrates a fact of life in the north.  Don’t count on getting where you are going… or on returning… until your trip is finished.

The weather was warm and lovely when we drove to Jo’s house.  Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful.  While we ate, we watched the weather outside change.  Snow fell.  Wind blew.  By the time the sun set, some time after four in the evening, stepping outside was walking into a white-out with all sense of proportion lost in the darkness beyond.

We started home.  We got about two miles, then turned around and spent the night at our daughter’s house.  We had a lovely visit, a nice breakfast, and drove home without incident. 

You could say we were lucky.  I remember one Thanksgiving when our youngest son didn’t make it to our house.  He turned around a mile from home and went shopping for turkey in the one store that was open near there.  In the store,  he met a neighbor who invited him and his family to share Thanksgiving.  So he had turkey after all.

Another time, our daughter and her family were traveling to our house for Christmas.  They got half-way and ended up in a motel and were glad to be there.  They celebrated Christmas in a motel with others who were also stranded.

When I finish this post, I’m going to put our winter survival gear in the SUV.  The four-wheel-drive SUV that’s the only vehicle we drive in the winter.  An old sleeping bag.  A large coffee can packed with candy, candles, and garbage bags that can be pulled over coats for added warmth and protection from the wind. Not much, but it can make the difference between comfort and losing toes and fingers to frostbite

When our kids were teenagers we insisted they throw snowmobile suits in the back of whatever car they were going to be in, whether it was ours or someone elses.  And we also insisted they tell us the route they would use coming and going.  So if they were late and we couldn’t locate them by phone, we’d know where to begin the search.  They hated it.  We insisted.  Usually we won though more than once I found a discarded snowmobile suit in the bushes where they’d tossed it because it was humiliating to actually admit to a friend the kind of rules we had.  But we lived miles from anywhere.  If there was trouble, there’d be no place for them to walk to for help … if the cold and the wind would allow walking anywhere at all. 

I’ve never had to use our winter survival kit and don’t know anyone who has and I doubt anyone I know will ever actually use theirs.  But here in the north country, it’s not a joke.  It’s a necessity.  And is part of the reason I became a writer.  Because my commute to work involves nothing more than walking from one room to another, and I don’t have to go outside at all if the weather is really, really bad.  Which is sometimes is.

SHARPSHOOTER… NOT!

I finally… finally… finally… got my next novella… Wanted:  Sharpshooter… (originally Night of the Puma but that didn’t work out) uploaded to Amazon where it’s for sale.  I’m still in a state of shock at how different on-line publishing is from writing for paper books and magazines.  Which is only relevant because it took me way longer to get this done than I expected.  I guess it’s a case of this being my first made-for-e-publishing story and, as such, it was an educational experience with a steep learning curve which I hope is now finished.

But I digress.  This post is about a specific element in Wanted:  Sharpshooter.  And about my dad.

My dad made his own knives, bows and arrows, and slings (yes, that’s slings, the kind David slew Goliath with) and he re-worked guns until their configurations satisfied him.  At any given time, our home was filled to the brim with weapons of various types that he could… and did… use with unerring accuracy.  Like hitting a small bird on the fly with an arrow.  Or killing an Alaskan bear with a sling because a bunch of guys wondered whether a sling really could kill a giant and a bear was about the same size. 

Yes, he truly did all those things, and he also taught his children about weapons.  I think he did a passable job of teaching my brother and sister.  With me, all I can say is that he tried.

He made me a re-curved bow when I was a teenager.  It was a thing of beauty made of Osage Orange with black rawhide on the front.  I loved it.  But I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with it.  Neither could I hit the bulls-eye with any of the many guns he chose for me when he patiently tried to teach me to shoot.  To be honest, I was lucky to hit the target, let alone the bulls-eye.

Years later, when my husband had to travel for his job and I was concerned about being alone in the wilderness, my dad provided me with the most awful-looking pistol (a Dirty Harry look-alike) and loaded it specifically for me, a lousy shot.  It was a six-shooter.  The first two were salt that would spread widely and act as a deterrent without actually killing anyone.  The third and fourth were buckshot that also spread widely but were more serious.  If I needed the last two, he informed me that I’d want all the power possible, so they were for killing.  I never needed that gun, thank goodness. 

The hero of Wanted:  Sharpshooter is a former Army Ranger sharpshooter and the heroine is a woman who can’t hit the broad side of a barn but whose father provided her with a shotgun for protection because buckshot will scatter and hit almost anything, anywhere.

Thanks, Dad, for all those lessons and for teaching me that even people who can’t hit the broad side of a barn can protect themselves.  That information proved invaluable when writing Wanted:  Sharpshooter.