Now just because things could be pretty tough on the ULC didnt mean we never had any fun. In fact, sometimes we had a good laugh when things were at their worst. Case in point was the day of the breeze. Being the ULC was on the front range of the Rocky Mountains, the winds could really get to whipping.
The night before the breeze was calm and cold, way below zero. About ten oclock that night there was a knock on my bedroom window. A trucker had just pulled in with a load of hay and wanted me to unload it. Because I didn’t have time to get the tractor warmed up and the truck unloaded before the border closed, I told him Id unload it in the morning before the border opened back up. Lloyd and I were planning on sorting the springers out from the heifers that morning as it was time for them to start calving. The truck was half unloaded when Lloyd drove by. By the time he had caught his horse, the wind was whipping hard enough that it was rocking the tractor. When I finished, the wind was blowing hard enough that there was no way we would be able to work cows, and it was increasingly blowing harder.
It was a warm Chinook wind out of the southwest. Now the thing about these Chinook winds is that sometimes you have a good idea about how long they will last. The weather fronts pushing these winds are actually visible and are called Chinook arches. Not only
could we see the arch, but also it was moving towards us, and we figured we would be able to have enough time to at least get the heifers in and partially sorted if we were saddled and ready to go when the arch passed. All I had to do was catch my horse.
The ground was already covered with several inches of clear ice, making the walk down the alley hazardous enough. It was already blowing hard enough that the supplement tubs that were empty, or nearly empty, were blowing around like trash bags so that walking down the alley against the wind would be impossible. Lloyd gave me a ride in the pickup down to the horse pasture. I managed to get the door open and stepped out onto the ice. Luckily I was able to grab onto the side of the truck as I slid by on the ice, which allowed me to get pointed to the fence on the downhill side. At least I made it to the fence without falling. I figured I wouldn’t stand a chance at swinging the gate shut so I crawled through the fence and went to catch Ol Whistledink.
Normally hes easy to catch. Not this time. I was wearing a coat with a nylon shell that was making a popping noise from the wind. Luckily the grass was thick enough I could get a little traction, but I was still blown to the ground a couple of times. Once Whistledink figured out I wasn’t cracking a whip at him, he came up to me; I put the halter on him, and headed for the wire gate. Once through, I got the gate closed, and I thought I was home free . . . wrong. I still had to cross more ice before I could get to the barn.
Now Lloyd and the carpenters were following my progress from the sanctity of the barn and having a good laugh. Just as I reached the ice, a gust blew me to my knees and onto the ice. As the crew was laughing at me through the door window, I just looked at them, held my arms out to my side and shrugged my shoulders.
Then came another gust that blew my winter cap from my head. It flew as if shot from a cannon to the far end of the barn and wrapped itself around a fence rail. This was the last straw! I let go of the lead rope and flattened myself out on the ground but I just kept on going. About that time, Lloyds stock trailer whipped around, passed me up and rammed into the fence corner. When I reached the fence, I grabbed onto it to stop myself.
I looked up to see Lloyd and the carpenters looking out the back door laughing, and when I looked up, I saw Whistledink’s lead extended out above me. Because they had been too busy laughing at my predicament, no one seemed to know if he followed me voluntarily or was just along for the slide. As we expected, a little after noon it was as if someone had flipped a switch and turned off the wind. Because we were ready to go, we managed to get the heifers in and have them sorted just as it was getting dark.
Of course this story got around the valley quickly. We were told the next day that at the time I was being blown around, the winds were steady at a hundred-thirty with gusts to a hundred and thirty-five knots. Of course these little breezes are why people living on
the Front Range can’t figure out why a little ninety-knot hurricane is such a big deal. After all its just another spring day on the Front Range.
This story is from my book A Million To One Odds (Times Five) which is available on Amazon