When the subject of hard winters around the Bear Paws has come up, 1977/78 seemed to be the benchmark for bad ones. At least that's been the opinion of most of the long time ranchers in this part of the world.
We do however now have a genuine contender for the title “worst winter in a long time.”
This last winter seems to be rated by most as “just as bad, if not worst” than '77/’78, but from my point of view it just really sucked.
We had a some snow in October, but as dry as last summer was we were pretty glad to see it as it put out most of the wild fires that had been plaguing our area. November was dry as was early December.
We started hoping for snow, but up until just before Christmas it was still pretty dry. With the recent memories of the past hot dry summer we really started to hope and pray for moisture.
Well, our hope and prayers were answered, apparently along with everyone else, because the snow started coming. A lot.
Pretty soon, all the things that should have been done earlier, that didn't get done earlier, now needed to be done in knee deep snow. But I wasn't all that concerned yet, since we never really get all that much snow out here.
The propane company forgot to deliver propane in November. It took two days to plow our road so the truck could get in to fill the tanks. I should have browbeat them earlier, but hey, we don't ever get all that much snow.
The bulk fuel delivery driver never delivered our gas and diesel. Didn't like the fact that we paid cash and he had to give us a discount. Should have gotten our transfer tank earlier and had to plow for 3 days to get out to buy the transfer tank and haul fuel in. But hey, we don't ever get all that much snow.
By the end of January there was over 2 ft. of snow and I couldn't find the driveway and when I finally did get it plowed out I had to make some markers out of old steel fence posts. Took me an hour to find the stack of old fence posts, even though I pretty much knew where they were. The snow and wind had buried everything, including trucks and trailers. Road markers? Heck, we just don't get that much snow.
By the end of February there was in excess of 30 inches on the level with huge drifts, and I needed my meds, which were in our mailbox, 6 miles away. I had gotten about a mile up the road with the tractor and snow blower, but a new storm blew in and filled it all back in. What to do?
Well heck, I'd spent over 30 years of my life on skis, both alpine and cross-country, been a Ski Patroller for 16 of those years, and while I'm 68 years young and I had not been on cross-country skis since 1993, I figured I could still handle 'em. So I dug my ski equipment out of the storage shed and set out, in a blizzard, just like old times. Got to the county road (2 miles) and headed for the mail box (4 miles). About 250 yds. from the mail box one of the phone co. techs came along in a pickup and I hitched a ride to the mail box, got the mail (and my meds) and he gave me a ride back to the ranch. I skied the 2 miles home from there. Call me crazy, but skiing that 7 ½ miles was the most fun I had all winter.
Between Christmas and the 21st of April we were able to get to town 7 times, but the 1st week of March the drive clutches on the snow blower gave out so we were stuck at the ranch until it got warm enough to start the D6 Cat. I got the Cat started on April 14th and got it into the shop for service. I started plowing with the Cat on the 16th, and had the road open on the 20th. Just in time for things to start melting and turn to mud.
Because of the constant snow cover all winter, the ground had not frozen, and we watched in amazement as 30+ inches of snow melted into the ground in a little over a week. Just enough runoff to fill the reservoirs.
The last few weeks I have been building fence where not all that long ago I was cutting through 5ft. of snow with the Cat.
So now I know. We do occasionally get a little snow out here. - George