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Saturday, September 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Ammi Midstokke: Some things are best left to the professionals

Ammi Midstokke is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review writing about off-the-grid living. (The Spokesman-Review)
Ammi Midstokke is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review writing about off-the-grid living. (The Spokesman-Review)
By Ammi Midstokke For The Spokesman-Review

I have this neighbor kid who got himself a little plow. He’s one of seven children named after confederate generals, which is exactly how I do so well at Trivial Pursuit in the category of “Monuments Removed.”

He called me when the snow started falling. “You need someone to plow?” It takes me about four hours to plow with my own little ATV, but I’m determined to do everything it takes to live independently in the mountains, even at the risk of being labeled a feminist. It’s less of a rebellion and more of a stubborn determination.

A legitimate Plow Man with a Real Truck charges a pretty penny to plow out here. Basically, it means that I’ll be breaking into my retirement if it snows more than once a month in the winter. Or selling a kidney, but I’m trying to save those to pay for my kid’s college.

There are not too many jobs that I don’t like when it comes to maintaining my mountain home. I’m not a big fan of cleaning the chimney (although I am happy to report that I installed a much safer rigging system for roof access this year). I’m not excited about pulling tansy, an eternal task. And I pretty much abhor plowing.

It’s partly because I’m not just a frigid person, but the kind that set the stereotype for cold feet in bed. I get bizarrely dysfunctional when I get cold. Like a drunk person who lost it all in the slot machines, I start doing useless, redundant things and muttering nonsense.

Case in point: Last week, I was headed to the bathroom with a newspaper, a cup of coffee and a towel when my phone rang.

“I’m jackknifed on the road below your driveway.”

The woman who lives in the miniature off-grid cabin on my property apparently hasn’t learned to drive like a rally racer yet. This is an imperative skill to have out here. The final approach to our hilltop home is a sketchy, narrow road that is lined with granite on one side and promises a fantastic rumble-tumble roll or two on the other side.

Some families pray before dinner. We pray before the hill.

I threw on a few layers of wool, down pants, down jacket, fuzzy boots, hats, gloves and anything else one would wear for the Iditarod, and tromped out to assess the situation.

There is “stuck” and then there is “how-did-this-even-happen-stuck.” It’s the kind where the laws of physics don’t apply and one is left wondering how a Tundra finds itself perched on its bumper on a snow bank, rear tires dangling in the air. It’s the kind of stuck that has me digging deep into my bag of Idaho roads tricks and coming up empty-handed.

“I can have my friend come help us, though I know you don’t like getting help from men,” my neighbor says. This is not true at all. I love getting help from men (or any gender identity), especially when it means I can stay home by the fire while they figure out how to unstuck the truck. My calls for help are limited to whether that person has the tools to actually improve the solution.

Three hours later, I am laying on the ice under the vehicle trying to pull chains off with hands that have turned into stumps. My fingers stopped hurting some time ago, but now they were just dead, white going blue. And I was not making sense anymore. Let’s add “getting unstuck” to that list of chores I detest.

The snow had started falling hard and the prospect of plowing had the drunk slot-player ranting in my head. I called my neighbor kid. He came whizzing up the road with some kind of turbo race car plow toy. I have no idea what it is, but I am pretty sure I need to own one. I watched him from the warmth of my cabin, thawing my frostbitten fingers, as he sped back and forth on my driveway, waiting for him to eject himself from slamming into snowbanks so hard.

In 15 minutes, my driveway was clear. I still had half a cup of hot coffee in my hand. This is how I turned plowing from my least favorite chore into my most favorite chore – having someone else do it. Best 40 bucks I ever spent.

Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at

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