We moved from Illinois up here to Minnesota the summer our daughter turned two. Our first winter, we were living in an uninsulated trailer and ill prepared for the bitterly cold weather. It also snowed a lot and the mile and a half gravel road to our homestead which was primarily uphill from the main road was snow-packed and icy for many months. Not only was it a challenge to get up the road that winter, but also exciting going down because of the twists and turns and slipperiness.
One day I had to make a town run. I had a long list which included grocery shopping and stopping at the laundromat to wash and dry clothes.
When we relocated that previous summer, we brought animals with us. We moved two dairy goats, a donkey and our dog. Our chickens came, too, but they made the trip in the freezer. The freezer also contained as many vegetables as I'd been able to put up from our Illinois garden that summer. That we had a garden at all that year was a miracle since we made a total of nine round trips moving our animals, household items, farm machinery and tools. Each trip was twelve hours and six hundred miles one way. My mother wanted to keep our daughter that summer, but we insisted she stay with us. The little kid was an excellent traveler and had more miles on her odometer than most two year olds by that fall.
Anyway, back to the freezer. We had friends in town who generously offered to let us store our full freezer in their garage since we had no electricity on our property.
Whenever I went to town, I would stop for a visit with these friends and bring home a shopping bag full of food from the freezer.
I had gone to town early that frigid morning because I wanted to be home at noon time to give fresh (unfrozen) water to the animals. Also, our daughter was still taking a long nap in the afternoon so I wanted to get her fed lunch before putting her down for her nap.
She and I were heading home in our Volkswagen Beetle a little before noon with a very full car. My Little Chickie (Chicken Mama to-be) was belted into the passenger seat next to me. This was (prehistoric times) before car seats for toddlers were required and common. The back seat was stuffed nearly to the roof with several baskets of clean laundry, bags of groceries, books from the library, miscellaneous shopping, frozen goods from the freezer, etc. Luckily, I had left the dog at home (she was thirteen at the time) because it was so cold, and I knew I might not have room for her after stocking up.
I stopped at the foot of our side road to get the mail out of our mailbox which was on the main road. Then I did something stupid. I didn't put my seat belt back on for the mile and a half trip to our homestead.
I was most likely going a little faster than I should have been. I was singing at the top of my lungs and trying to keep Little Chickie singing with me so she wouldn't fall asleep before we got home. We were about half way there when I hit a slick spot and did a 180° turn on the road. Then the car started sliding sideways toward a fairly steep ditch which was (good thing) filled with snow.
We had been having trouble getting the driver's door of the car to shut securely because of ice build-up somewhere in the latching mechanism. As the car slid sideways toward the ditch, the door flew open. Then I did something else stupid. Mother's instinct I suppose, but I let go of the steering wheel and turned in my seat to grab Little Chickie. She, being securely belted in and wearing approximately four layers of clothing, a snowsuit, a hat, a hood, a scarf, boots and two sets of mittens, didn't budge. But I went backwards out the open door trying to stop myself by spreading my legs. I had a very large, colorful bruise the whole length of both outer thighs so I knew I made an attempt to keep from being thrown out.
I was so fortunate that I landed in the snow about three feet from where the car landed at a 45° angle in the ditch. I remember scrambling through the waist high snow on my hands and knees to reach Little Chickie still securely belted in her seat.
I said, "Are you all right?"
She gave me a look that said "what the heck did you just do, Mama?" and replied with a little nod of her head, "Yeah."
Well, with no little effort I got her unbelted, out of the car and stood up on the road. Then I realized half of the contents of the car were strewn around in the snow-covered ditch. I spent a while picking up and throwing back into the car everything I could dig out of the snow. Then we began our trek home.
It was slow going (and cold!) while I was carrying Little Chickie and even slower when I had to put her down to walk for a while. But eventually we made it home, I gave her a little lunch and she immediately went down for her nap. (Nothing like a brisk hike in the fresh air to poop a little one out.)
I called the nearest garage with a tow truck and asked if he could come pull the Volkswagen home. Later that afternoon when he came in the yard, he said after extricating the car from the snow, he noticed various objects underneath where the car had been in the ditch. The dear man took the time to gather all he could find. He said it was like a treasure hunt . . . a package of lamb chops, frozen peas, a pot roast, corn, a chicken, beans, various pieces of (clean) underwear, and a box of pretty much smashed crackers.
Unbelievably, because the car landed in deep snow, it didn't even have a dent. The door, although bent back against the front wheel, was repaired and worked fine after that. I had nothing but the bruises, and my little trussed up, well-padded passenger didn't suffer any harm at all.
That was the first and last time I ever slipped driving up and down that road for the next fifteen winters. I may have made a couple of bad mistakes, but I did learn from them.
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