John rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, but the scene outside the window still refused to change. There was, in fact, fresh snow outside. It was at least an inch deep.
"Damn," he muttered out loud.
"Wha?" Clarissa muttered, startled out of sleep.
"Nothing, Dear. Go back to sleep," John told his wife.
John looked at his wife. She had sharp ears, even in her sleep. He didn't try to be quiet when he left the room, as that would have woken his wife fully. Normal noises seemed to settle her when she was sleeping, something he had learned about her, over the years.
He made his way to the kitchen, and turned on the light. He squinted against the brightness of the light, letting his eyes adjust before heading to the coffee maker. He fixed a pot of coffee, and waited with two cups.
Sure enough, as soon as the coffee maker made that final sound, 'coffee finished dripping', in came his wife with her robe belted tightly around her. He poured two cups and set one before her.
"Snow, Clarissa. It has snowed about an inch outside during the night," John told his wife in a disgusted tone of voice.
"Well, the kids will love it. Building snowmen, snowball fights. It's been a long time since anything like that has happened around here," Clarissa said in a wistful voice.
"Well... we have kids in the house, now, Momma. I have a feeling we will see a snowball fight develop pretty quickly this morning," John said with a smile at his wife.
John was going to have to put hay out to where the herd was, so they could get enough energy to combat the cold. Snow could be a disaster to a rancher and his cattle. John was determined not to loose any cattle from this little snow.
"Mike and his family will be down from the old house for breakfast, soon. I guess I better get started with breakfast," Clarissa sighed.
John smiled at his wife. She was being disingenuous, as she loved cooking for her children and grandchildren. John went to the back door, and looked out the window at the old ranch house.
While from the front it looked the same, they were adding to the back of it. They had already added a twenty by twenty foot room to the house, which would hold the gas fed Central Heating, the gas water heater, and the washer and dryer once plumbing was added. Adding plumbing was something he dreaded, as it would change the old house forever.
As it was, he felt guilty with what had been done already. Electricity and gas had been run to the house, as had been venting for the central heat. Well it had to be done, but he still felt guilty about changing the house and all that family history.
As he watched, the door to the old house opened and his grandkids, Tracy and Mark, ran out slipping and sliding in the snow, laughing. John smiled at that. Kids could have fun anywhere at anytime.
Mike and Rachael followed at a more sedate pace, but still quickly, as it was cold outside.
"Honey? Mike is coming with his brood. Just a warning," John called out loudly.
"Fine. Would you make sure Karen, and the twins, Andy and Randy are up? I swear they seem to be able to sleep through anything," Clarissa responded.
John went and knocked on doors.
"Breakfast in five minutes. Hurry it up before we throw it to the hogs," John yelled out.
"You don't have hogs, Grandpa," a sleepy Andy told his grandfather.
"Then maybe I should get some! Now get up, and get to the table," John yelled, chuckling.
John watched his son Mike chase the last of the egg yoke around his plate with a piece of homemade bread. John sipped his coffee, and sat back. He was content with the breakfast, but knew he had a big day ahead of him.
"Breakfast was great, Mom! Thanks," Mike said with a sigh a moment later.
The kids had already gulped down their breakfast, and were all outside playing in the snow.
"Karen? Rachael? I have been getting ready to do the laundry. I noticed that the kids don't seem to have much in the way of underwear in this weeks load. You might want to get on them about changing more often," Clarissa said as she took some dishes to the kitchen.
John gestured at his son, and they both got up and headed to the office after dropping their plates, cups, and silverware off in the kitchen. John sat at his desk and Mike took a seat in the large overstuffed chair.
"What's up, Dad?" Mike asked.
"With this snow, I want to take some hay out to the herd. It may only be an inch, but that's enough to be a problem. I have no idea when the weather is going to break, so we have to play it safe," John told his son.
"Ok. What if we drive the herd a bit closer to the house, too? We can drop and spread the hay out by the bend. That will give the herd a place to water, keep them out of the wind, and still have them close to the house," Mike agreed with a nod.
"That's about what I was thinking. Also, with the herd so close, it will be easier to help the cows that are due to drop calves," John added.
"Now onto another subject, Dad. While we have the add on room done, and the vents run and in place for the central heating, and the furnace in; it is going to be some time before we can get the plumbing in, as well as finding and putting in a stove.
"Rachael, bless her, still has problems cooking on that wood burning stove. Can Mom come up and give her pointers? It would really help. While we all enjoy Mom's cooking, we need start eating at the house, sometime," Mike said with a sigh.
"You know your mom enjoys cooking for everyone. While I am sure she will be happy to teach Rachael to cook on that old stove, I'm just as sure she will want to keep cooking for everyone, here," John replied mildly.
Mike stood and headed for the door.
"We can keep going round and round on this Dad. The bottom line is I need to be able to take care of my family in the house I am living in. Even the hands cook, clean, and wash at the bunkhouse," Mike said and left the room.
John found himself at one of the line shacks at dusk. He and the hand who was riding with him, put their horses up in the lean-to. They broke up some hay for the horses to eat. They also put horse blankets on the horses to keep them warm through the cold night.
Soon John had the small potbelly stove going. It was warming up the shack, and the two men looked to see what they could make for dinner. There were beans with franks, vienna sausage, crackers, and more cans of beans. The cans were frozen, of course.
"Well, Mr. Wideman, it's beans, or beans and franks, or these little sausages. I don't think we have the water for some of this other stuff," Henry said musingly.
"I vote beans with franks. We can heat a couple cans on the stove top and it will be fine," John said grabbing a couple cans from the shelf.
John moved the five-gallon can of water that was always in the shacks close to the stove so the water would melt. It would take most of the night for it to melt.
"At least we'll have water for coffee in the morning," John stated.
"Instant coffee is not real coffee," Henry said with a grin.
John looked at the man who he would be sharing this shack with for the night. Henry was a man about thirty-five, and had been working off and on for John for the last ten years.
"Henry? Why do you keep quitting after round up? You're a top hand, and I would have kept you on year round. That excuse of having other things to do is a bit tired," John asked after they had each eaten a can of beans and franks.
"I did have other things to do. I worked my ass off all spring and summer, then spent the winter visiting my mom. She's been finding it hard to get around in the winters, and well, I would take care of her then.
"Since this flu plague thing has happened, I have been unable to get to her this year, and that bothers me a lot. She doesn't have anyone left but me, and now with the state borders closed, she doesn't even have me! I can't get her on the phone, either, as they don't work anymore," Henry said in a sad voice.
"I'm sorry. I never knew," John answered simply.
"I never told anyone. No reason you should have known," Henry responded.
They talked for a while into the night, then after putting a scoop of coal into the potbelly stove, they turned in for the night. John slept fitfully, as he missed sleeping with his wife. He knew she would miss him also. He got up to check on the stove occasionally, and would throw in a bit of kindling, but the shack was very warm.
The next day the two got up, made a breakfast of oatmeal and sweetened it with a bit of sugar that was with the supplies. John did a quick inventory and was satisfied that the shack was stocked well enough.
Four hours later, cold and tired, they made it back to the ranch and Henry took the two horses to the barn while John made his way to the house. He made his way to the kitchen to see if there was any coffee on. There was.
John poured the coffee into a cup and blessed the day he married his wife. She must have seen them riding in, and had put on a fresh pot. The question was, where was everyone?
"Hello? Anyone here?" He called out loudly at the doorway to the dining room.
He spent a moment going through the house to find no one there. Well, they had to be somewhere. He went back to the kitchen and sat. He winced in pain as he did so.
'Damn I'm getting old, ' he thought to himself.
He took his cup of coffee with him, and went to the back of the house and looked out the back door window. Sure enough, he could see kids and adults moving around in the old house.
Ah well, they would let him know what was going on when they were ready. John took his coffee with him to the living room, and sat in his easy chair, after setting his cup down on the end table next to it.
He considered listening to the radio, but all that came through was government reports that work was being done on finding a cure for the flu, and that the government was working tirelessly to get electrical and gas services restored to those who had lost it. Any other information was sketchy at best.
John closed his eyes for just a minute, and woke to his grandson Andy shaking him.
"Grandpa? You ok?" Andy asked John.