Halloween tale for Voweled Out, Rd. 1 (the alphabet's 21st letter does not make a cameo).
I'll never forget the Halloween of 1972, as its aftermath is indelibly imprinted in my memory. We were living in Conifer, Colorado, a town approximately one-third of the way between Denver and Fairplay and mostly scattered well to the left and right of the main highway. Adjacent to the road and between the "city limits" signs - a distance so short as to tempt a foolhardy teen into driving it with one's eyes closed - were a gas station and a very small shopping plaza anchored by a grocery store.
Since the nearest neighbors were close to a half-mile in any direction, we decided to drive to my mom's niece's home in Denver and designate it "Candy Central." Late-October nights in Colorado aren't normally very warm, and that one was no exception. We were dressed for it, however, so off we went door-to-door. Back then, the whole razor-blade-in-the-apple thing was a rarity, and any cookies received were liable to be eaten on the spot (parental warnings notwithstanding). With 'home base' right in the middle of an apartment complex, we were certain it was going to be a great night, and we weren't disappointed. Each pillowcase was filled with an impressive collection of candy - both wrapped and loose - certain to last for weeks. So far, so good.
When we had eaten all we were allowed, it was time to head home. It was also time for a reminder that weather in Colorado can be very localized, and very hard to predict. At the time we started from Denver, only a sprinkling of snow coated the grass and cars, scarcely more than a trace. As we merged onto the highway and headed west, however, more and more flakes appeared in the headlight beams. When we finally reached the part where the hills start, we joined a long line of cars getting nowhere fast. We inched forward and, after a time, arrived at the reason for the delay: a sign reading ROAD CLOSED - SNOW. That explained the stream of cars heading into Denver; everyone had to reverse direction and make some sort of plan to deal with the weather. We did the mandatory one-eighty, went back to the niece's place, and spent the night with her and her family. Not so bad, right? Read on.
By midmorning the next day, we were allowed to go home. The highway wasn't the problem; it was the nearly five-mile stretch of dirt road from the highway to the driveway. The graders had plowed the road, restoring access, and their operators now considered themselves the heroes of the storm. We didn't have a problem with that, except for one small point. All the snow formerly located all over the road had to be shoved somewhere, and we now had a five-foot wide wall of packed snow blocking the top of the driveway. Since we weren't carrying shovels in the car, we had to climb over the wall and then traverse the one-eighth mile long driveway. My brother, Gregg, and I each carried a smaller sibling piggyback, as the snow was armpit deep on them; Mom and Dad were on their own. We knew the driveway's path and the little kids weren't that heavy, so the short downhill trek was completed incident-free.
And now - the aforementioned aftermath...
Create a mental image of a gravel driveway an eighth of a mile long and eight feet wide, with the last ninety feet or so inclined at least thirty degrees with a left-to-right bend. Then imagine at least three feet of snow covering every inch of it. Finally, imagine being a seventeen-year-old boy tasked with clearing a trail at least two feet wide from the garage back to the road, so as to provide a path for the tractor-mower and a "starting point" for its plowblade.
Yes, indeed - a Halloween to remember.