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  • Reyna Bradford

Endurance (written 12/28/22)

The cold came in like a freight train.


Wednesday a week ago began well enough. Chilly but calm, temperatures sitting at about thirty-five, typical for this time of year.


But everyone knew what was coming.


I had planned for it for days. Laid in extra supplies of grain, bird seed, suet, and twenty bales of hay. Decided not to strip out the goats’ bedding as I usually do each week, in an effort to give them more insulation against the cold. Stuffed armfuls of hay into the guardian dogs’ shelters. Moved potted plants up to my parents’ house, since my utility room would get too frigid for them.


And then – waited.


The first gust of wind hit while I was last-minute checking the rabbits’ heat lamps and hay. It was vicious wind. Savage and bitter, from the northwest, and it meant business. Within about an hour, it had driven the temperature down by thirty degrees. I shut things down for the night, took a super hot shower, and curled up under my down quilt at 1:35 a.m. Even as I slept, I could hear the wind.


The next day was a waking nightmare. The high temperature topped out at two degrees below zero. The wind lashed us relentlessly. Gusts up to forty-five miles an hour, whirling snow out of the northwest, and a wind chill factor of forty-five below. The entire day was spent breaking out water tubs, thawing out water bottles, hauling heavy, steaming buckets of hot water out to the barn, hefting bales of hay into the rapidly emptying hay racks, and then turning around to do it all over again an hour later.


I was just as exhausted psychologically as I was physically.


The wind cut like knives. I faced it layered in two pairs of thick sweat pants, a sweat shirt, a fleece pullover on top of that, a heavy coat, insulated socks, insulated boots, and gloves. And I could still feel the wind. Just keep moving, keep working, keep lifting, keep walking. Keep trying.


It was a cold, dark time in more ways than just the weather. I struggle in circumstances like these. They test me in every little thing, in literally every step I take. I try to tell myself that the frost will thaw, the snow will melt, and the wind will eventually quiet. But practically speaking, hour by hour, I get bogged down in the little frustrations and disappointments and setbacks. I think about how icy-cold my feet are. I fight back fury at how my fingers burn and sting, and how hard it is for me to function with gloves on. I wonder why it has to take so ridiculously long to fill one bucket of water. And then, two hours later, I huff and puff and grind my teeth as I try to break that same water, now frozen nearly solid, out of the goats’ rubber tub to refill it with still more water that will freeze within hours.


But we all made it through. Today, lulling in a comfortable fifty-five degrees, I have begun the monumental effort of cleaning pens and corrals. The dogs and I are walking the roads again. The rabbits’ water bottles haven’t frozen for two entire days. Wow, life is good!

There will be more cold. After all, it’s only the end of December. There will be more challenges and more struggles. But for this time, we made it through. We took it one day at a time, hour by hour. We all endured. And we’re all okay.


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