My Husband the Resident Expert


An experienced backhoe operator like my husband can make it do just about anything but talk.

While I’ve commented before that my husband has multiple skills, it’s when the going gets tough that I really appreciate him. Being snowbound this last week has reminded me of how much we all depend on him – me, my family, my neighbors and our community. We are on the far side of what is called middle-aged today and he’s had three back surgeries, but that hasn’t stopped him from doing what needed to be done. For example:
It began with the power failure, which I discovered at 3 AM on Wednesday morning. While I started clearing snow off the roof, my husband got the generator set up and running.
Fourteen inches of snow in eight hours – really wet heavy snow – meant plenty of big branches and even whole trees down. Actually, he’d already dealt with one big oak tree that fell across our road a couple of days before the storm hit. Having learned to run a chainsaw when he was about the same length as the saw, he made short work of the problem. What he couldn’t cut up he muscled out of the way with the backhoe.

The calf whisperer.

The road leading up from our house is on a north-facing slope and has a 12-percent grade. For those of you who may not be knowledgeable on this subject, a seven-percent grade on a highway is considered to be very steep. It’s the sort of grade where you see all those warning signs to truckers telling them to check their brakes. And this is not a paved highway but a gravel road. In order to even start clearing the road he had to chain up the backhoe – in the dark, since the power was out. It takes considerable skill to use a backhoe bucket as a snowplow, on a steep road, in the dark, with no markers and a total of 16 inches of snow on the ground.
Once the road was clear, it was kind of a moot point since the county snowplows hadn’t gotten up here and while we could get to the highway, we couldn’t go anywhere from there. So he cleared the area in front of the fire hall, as our volunteer firefighters were the only ambulance and firefighters available. Then he dug out the neighbors’ driveways, the post office and store parking lots. He also had to dig out and deepen a drainage ditch that was running overfull and would have washed out the road. Altogether he spent about 12 hours on the backhoe, which has an open cab, so it was cold, wet and miserable. He also discovered that his zoot suit pants (which are 20 years old) were leaking.

Zoot suits — the rancher’s most fashionable rain wear.

In the meantime, our well pump had gone out. Luckily it turned out the problem was a blown breaker on the generator rather than the well itself. He was able to quickly diagnose and solve the problem.
While the generator is a wonderful solution to the problem of no power, it has to be gassed and serviced every eight hours. So my husband has been out there at O-dark-30 every night to keep it running. Yesterday he discovered the generator my daughter wanted to use at the store had a clogged carburetor because it had not been drained properly. So he set up the smallest genny to give her lights while he fixes the big one. Today he’ll be dealing with the neighbor’s generator since the man of that house has a seizure disorder and has been having seizures from stress, which means he can’t work on it.
And amid all of this he has been doing the routine ranch chores while I dealt with issues related to my clinic being closed, cleared snow around the house and supplied him with food. I was teasing him last night that the problem is he’s just too darned competent; if he was a dumb cluck with no skills he could be relaxing in his easy chair. He did laugh, but it took him a minute.
I’d say it was a pretty darned impressive performance from my husband the resident expert.

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