First tracks | ParkRecord.com

First tracks

More Dogs on Main

By Tom Clyde
Park Record columnist

So there's finally some snow, and temperatures have cooled off enough they can make snow on the mountain most of the time. It's not the opening we were all looking for, and a slow start casts doubt on the rest of the ski season, but there's nothing we can do about it.

At least I can quit thinking about mowing the lawn.

There was enough snow at my house to cover the ground completely. Looking out, first thing in the morning, I noticed the yard was covered with a smooth blanket of snow, untouched and pristine.

When I took the dog out, it was pretty obvious we were not getting first tracks. The traffic through my yard during the night had been pretty heavy. There was a deer trail in the back yard. That's pretty typical. There's a regular wildlife freeway through the back yard along a cut through the woods where the utilities are buried.

In the front yard, there were smaller tracks in the snow. I couldn’t tell what they were. Maybe a fox or raccoon.

In the summer, when the grass is deep (that's beyond the boundary of what gets mowed) the path is compacted as if people drive on it. There are always deer. Through the years I've seen moose, bobcats, coyotes, and even a bear wandering along the path. So often I get just a glimpse of the critters passing through.

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The window of my office looks out that direction, and if I happen to look up from the computer screen at just the right moment, I can see what's out there. Who knows what goes on when I'm not looking that direction. The tracks are enough to suggest there is a lot of action out there, especially at night.

In the front yard, there were smaller tracks in the snow. I couldn't tell what they were. Maybe a fox or raccoon. My dog was very interested in sniffing the tracks. Whatever it was had made a couple of laps around the front yard, over to the garage, to the tractor shed, and eventually down the road along the river. On closer inspection, I saw there were at least two of them, one quite a bit bigger than the other. From the meandering paths they took through the yard, they appeared to be drunk.

In the night, snow slid off the metal roof of the house. At first it was in small pieces. It hit the deck below with a loud "whomp" sound. The dog has heard it all before, but was still alarmed enough that he had to go bark at every window before coming back up to bed.

Later, the north side of the roof slid all at once with a scraping sound on the roof and a solid impact on the ground below. It woke us both up. The dog, a tower of courage, gave several loud warning barks from his hiding place under my bed. He wasn't about to mess with anything that made that much noise.

I've been ready for winter for a long time now. Waiting. Prepping. Waiting. The closet has been inverted, with the summer sports gear boxed up on the shelf and the ski gear moved down where I can get to it. The bikes are stowed in the furnace room for the winter; the ski gear has moved into its place in the toy room. I got new boots at the end of the year last year, and finally took them in to get cooked and fitted. It felt good to be planning for skiing.

As winter's arrival kept getting delayed, I've been tinkering with the tractor. The snow blower is mounted on the tractor, and adjusted, then readjusted. In an effort to quit sucking gravel from my dirt roads through the blower, I engineered some wheels to hold it up a couple of inches.

The blower was designed for hard surfaced roads, and the metal shoes that were supposed to hold the blade slightly off the pavement instead just plowed up the gravel and pushed it into the blower. This looks like a solution that will solve it. So far there hasn't been enough snow for me to bother with it. Meanwhile, I re-routed the cord to connect my iPod to the sound system so it won't dangle in the way. If it does snow, I'm an invincible machine this year.

Patience isn't my strong suit. If I plant a field, I expect a solid stand of alfalfa the next morning. If I get the snow blower all dialed in, I expect to be moving Buffalo-style snow that afternoon. This waiting for winter, mired in the mud of the in-between season, wears on me. But it will come. It will come.

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving, snow or not. We have much to be thankful for around here.

Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.

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