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Chasing windmills

 

All last week, I heard from coworkers and people around the community about the possible snow that was coming. Not being from this area, snow in late April or early May just sounds ridiculous to my southern ears.

Still, I heeded the warnings and dusted off my winter coat. I had planned on working Saturday as that was the day the Sidney Regional Medical Center was set to hold their health fair at the Cheyenne County Community Center.

And then Friday afternoon, I learned the health fair was canceled. Not surprising given the expected weather, but it left a hole in my Saturday schedule.

I woke up early Saturday morning and looked out my window. I've found that Sidney can be quite beautiful covered in snow, and that morning was no exception. After watching the snow fall for a while, and noticing the lack of movement around town, I became restless.

Donning my winter coat, and two pairs of socks, I dressed and left my apartment. My intent was initially to just circle the block and take some photos around town for our Monday edition. However, unlike past snowstorms I've been through recently, the wind wasn't too bad at all.

Anybody who has read my previous columns should know that I am a walker. I walk everywhere, and many of you have probably seen me along the sidewalks of Sidney as I go about my rounds. If I can get somewhere on foot, then that's how I will get there.

That Saturday was no exception. With the town looking so beautiful, and the wind on my side, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to see how the Deadwood Trail looked covered in snow.

I made my way to 10th Avenue, and walked south towards American Legion Park. There wasn't much traffic that morning, except for a snowplow or other snow removal vehicle every so often.

Walking the sidewalk was also manageable as I didn't come across any ice patches. I did step into the occasional deep slush puddle, though.

As I entered the park, I was taken aback at how amazing the area surrounding the pond was in the snow. Looking at the path itself, I saw no tracks. Internally, I remarked to myself how funny it was that the Texan is the only one crazy enough to be out here in a snowstorm.

I had a goal in mind. Going west towards Interstate Highway 80, there is an old windmill along the trail. It's probably more accurately described as a weathervane, but I can't help but see it as anything but a windmill, so that's what I will call it.

I love seeing that windmill on my walks, and wanted to take a picture of it in the snow. With my destination set, I started my journey along the trail.

As I passed the community center and made my way towards the baseball fields and Lodgepole Valley Youth Camp, I noticed the trail was becoming harder to see. It was also getting more difficult to walk, as each step sank further into the snow.

I passed the youth camp and had a short reprieve from the weather as I went under the Ft. Sidney Road onto the disc golf course. I could still see the trail at this point, but just barely in some places.

Passing a bicycle sign that read, "Stop Ahead," I briefly considered turning back. Then I remembered my goal, and no sign was going to distract me from getting that picture of the windmill.

"You're not the boss of me, sign," I said. The sign didn't answer back, though. It knew better.

As I passed the Western Nebraska Community College, I began to regret arguing with that sign. The sight before me brought to mind the titular painting from Yasmina Reza's play, "Art": a canvass of white, with white lines spread throughout.

I no longer saw the path. I couldn't see anything. My mind in a state of panic, I held my hand out to make sure I wasn't going blind. In retrospect, looking behind me would have served the same purpose.

At this point, I had two options: either I turn around and head back to my apartment, chalking the journey into the "maybe next time" category, the smart option, or be an idiot and proceed into the living embodiment of The Beatle's White Album and hope that I stumble across the windmill.

I have never claimed to be a smart man.

Walking the Deadwood Trail countless times in the past couple of months, I attempted to use my mind's eye to remember where the path was. By this point, the wind started to pick up as well.

Visually, I couldn't tell if I was making progress, but the sound of snow crunching under my feet let me know that I was, indeed, moving forward.

Occasionally, I stumbled as I hit uneven ground, clearly missing where the path actually was in my trek. Stupid mind's eye!

Thankfully, fencing along the trail kept me from veering too far, and after what felt like forever, I could see the windmill in the distance.

Slowly, I made my way towards my goal. Each step felt heavy, and every step sank calf deep into the snow. In my head, my brain was screaming, "That's good enough. You can see it." But my legs wouldn't listen.

And then I was there. I was tired, my legs ached, my two pairs of socks soaked through, but I was there. I took a moment to reflect on reaching my goal, and then took another moment to take a congratulatory "selfie."

The wind howled, the snow fell, and I smiled at accomplishing what I set out to do. A feeling of satisfaction washed over me, one that a person feels maybe only a few times in their life. It was truly a great feeling.

And then I remembered that I still had to walk back home.

 

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