Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Frozen Northland

           My family went back to Kako when I was twelve. We were supposed to only be there for about a month, but ended up being there for almost two months due to weather. Our main purpose for going was to be of assistance to another family that was holding down the fort during the long, cold winter months. The mother was six months pregnant and needed some help with her two other children as well as some general support. Since my mom is a retired nurse, we were the perfect family for the job.
            The adventure started, with a very, very cold arrival.  We approached the small snow-covered runway in a tiny plane. Thankfully our good friend, Jim, was piloting otherwise I'm not sure we would have made it safely to the ground. I say this because once we were on the ground, Jim alerted us to the fact that he had just landed the plane without flaps. They had frozen in the sub-zero temps.
            As we opened the door, we were greeted with COLD -  eighty below zero (with wind chill). My mom actually froze her hands. It took her nearly an hour to get feeling back and in the process went through extreme pain. It was my fault really. I had lost my hat in the plane and my mom had taken her gloves off to give me her hat. When she did, her hands froze instantly. What a good mom!
            I experienced many adventures during this visit that I probably would have never had otherwise. During these extreme colds, the water lines froze. Well, we still needed water, therefore, my older brother and I were assigned to get a line down to the local pond and pump water into the holding tanks in each of the three houses. It was some cold work. While digging the hole through the ice, we found water beetles. Um! That was the water that we were going to be drinking! After seeing this, I made sure my mom boiled the water before we used it.
            I don't remember showering much during that time. In fact, I only remember one shower in that almost two-month period. Surely, I showered more than that!? It was so cold, that we usually didn't take off our long underwear unless we were showering. Therefore, as you can guess I kept mine on most of the time. It's weird to think that that is exactly what the miners did. Not taking the long underwear off for months was a reality for them, for me too (and I thought that was only in the movies!).
            The only heat in our house was a wood stove that needed to be tended throughout the night. It was mostly my brother's job to do that. Most of the time, I would wake up seeing my breath, but I was toasty warm under my six or so blankets and polar fleece sheets.
            One night my brother packed so much wood into the fire that it got extremely hot. So hot that it melted the wool socks that we had put near by to dry. It was a little bit of a scary experience because when a wood stove gets that hot, it could catch other things on fire. A house fire in the middle of nowhere is not a pleasant experience! Thankfully, this did not happen!

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