Su Lum: The snow of ’65
The beautiful, big snow dump we had this weekend reminded me of my first winter here.
We had arrived in August of 1964, “we” consisting of my ex-husband Burt and our 2-year-old daughter Skye, soon to be tripled as we added a cat and two mares and discovered that both the mares and I were pregnant.
We rented a small dwelling in Woody Creek, surrounded by fields and accessed by a quarter-mile, L-shaped driveway. Burt taught English at Aspen High, and I was a secretary for the Ski Company (where McDonald’s is now); we commuted to town in our VW bug, dropping Skye off at Mrs. Bibbig’s, the local daycare.
It was a gorgeous fall, and we were just starting to wonder how the ski slopes could open on Thanksgiving when WHOMP, in came the snows. We had migrated from Alaska, where the deepest snowfall in our three years there was a mere 9 inches ” when winter really set in there, it got too cold to snow.
But in Aspen that first year we had snow and snow and snow, and every time the wind would whip across those fields and if it didn’t catch both the sides of the L-shaped road, it would catch one of them and turn it into cement and there was only one road grader capable of plowing through it.
I remember that winter watching out the window waiting for the plow, driving in Aspen with a red pennant attached to the antenna of the bug because the snow was piled so high drivers couldn’t see other cars coming around corners ” we all had pennants.
The water ditches froze, we’d drive home in the dark and then Burt would have to haul water and hay for the mares. Don’t ask me why we bought those horses.
The ski season ended in mid-April and we thought the snows would end, too, but soon after Rio Blanco dropped her filly the great snow of ’65 began to fall. It snowed 36 inches in 24 hours. In the midst of it, Burt set out to rescue the baby, carrying it, slung over his shoulders, to the house. He didn’t know what Rio would do. Rio hated everybody, kicked and bucked if anyone approached her much less tried to ride her, but she followed him like a puppy through the blizzard.
Our tiny three-room cement-block quarters had a sizable attached and heated garage. Burt put Rio and the baby in there, where it lay on an old mattress. I don’t remember how long it took for the road grader to come, but it was long enough for us to worry about running out of food and for Rio to get so socialized she’d step from the garage into the kitchen nuzzling me for water.
We had lots of hay, which Burt would throw into the garage and slog through the snow to carry to the other mare, Wasilla, pregnant in the field.
We all had girls that spring. Wasilla’s filly came next, after the sun had melted the snow and Rio and her baby were back in the field, and I was last with my daughter Hillery, born on May 17. I always think of it as the day the leaves come out in Aspen. When I went to the hospital it was winter, and when I came out two days later everything was green.
[Su Lum is a longtime local. The four horses were sold to Klaus Obermeyer. This column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times]