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Out of Place in the Bitterroots Sheryl Lynn Grant At eleven in the evening, I open the iron door to the Timberline wood stove and heave a piece ofjack pine over the embers. Our woodpile has dwindled to three small logs—only enough for another forty-eight hours. And three feet ofsnow makes wood cutting impossible. Outside, the round thermometer glows through the window pane like an eyebaU. Only a few inches from the warm window, it reads fifty-five degrees below zero, as it has for the last two weeks. Further away from the house it's even colder than that; an hour ago the Missoula country station announced a record wind chiU for theVaUey. "Ice Storm '87: ninety-two below with a north-tosouth Selway-Bitterroot gust." I press my nose to the pane. Before my breath freezes on the glass, I see my white Samoyed puppy. Samson is leaving his dog kennel in search of a snowdrift near the forest's edge. I worry that he might be cold, although I know he is of the oldest dog breed known, a native to the ice fields of Siberia and worshipped by the Samoyed Indians. His body loops several times and finaUy slumps to a ball, black nose tucked in tau. I 'wander into the kitchen and scratch at the sheet of ice above the sink, where the steam from a month's worth of dishes has gathered on the pane. It forms an inch-thick ossified riffle, a kaleidoscope for the street lamp. The ice twists and bends the silver light, shattering the contoured mounds ofour vehicles buried under three feet of snow. Last week when Rick came home from the grocery store, our Ford F-150 lurched into the driveway, the fuel tank empty and the tie rod protruding from underneath it like a snapped coUarbone. It hasn't moved since. And, a couple days ago at the Ravali County Une, our Oldsmobile Coupe rattled to a stop with worn points and a dead starter, now catty-whampus with two same-side flats. The kids and I had walked halfway home when a snowplow stopped, and the driver picked us up, offering to help me tow it. He was a high-strung Flathead Indian who gnawed on a toothpick whüe he sped back to my car. 120 Sheryl Lynn Grant121 His hydraulic seat bounced when he skidded to a halt alongside the Olds. "You're better off to move it," he said, strong-arming the truck into first gear. "You know these mountain people—leave a rig here along the highway , and there'U be nothin' left come morning." I crawled into my car and buckled up Kimber andJason. The man roUed down the window of the snowplow, leaned out, and whooped back at me, "Hang on, little Missy!"Within five seconds, I was traveling out of control, leaning through a stop sign and around the icy corners of West Side Highway. The kids buried their heads and bawled from the back seat while I sat white-knuckled behind the wheel, wincing at the notion of being pulled sixty-five miles per hour with only a bungee rope separating me from the DANGER: Do Not Tailgate sign on the back ofthe snow plow. Before retiring for the night, I check the fire once more. It crackles and hacks a coal onto the Unoleum. I kick it onto the hearth, shut the stove door, and close the damper, then sUp through the house, passing our bedroom where the musky odors of Old Spice, Marlboros, and sweat drift from the darkness. Rick's breathing stops for a moment; his large body roUs to a different position in the waterbed. I peek inside the chüdren's room. In the glow ofa night Ught, they huddle together on the bottom bunk oftheir beds, every extra blanket we own piled on top. Over the last few weeks, the moisture from their breath has condensed on the cefling and roUed down to form a foot-high clump of ice around the mop boards. Now everything they own—their clothes, blankets, and stuffed toys—are frozen stiff against the bedroom waU...


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