First Winter in Colorado

The company for which I worked, Amoco, closed its Fort Worth office in August of 1971 and I was transferred to its Denver office.  Jean and I felt very fortunate that we were going to Denver instead of the other options, Houston or New Orleans.

We arrived in Colorado on my birthday, August 13 with two cars loaded with the three boys, many plants and hoards of just stuff.  Our caravan included an additional vehicle. It was transporting four tourists, my parents and my in-laws.  I imagine any onlookers thought we looked like the Joads of Oklahoma without the mattresses.  The motel personnel were glad to see us since we occupied four rooms.  The grandparents were there for ten days and we were in the motel for ten weeks before our new home was ready for occupancy.

One month after we arrived, twenty inches of snow fell in our motel area, not far from the hogbacks.  We had never seen more than about three inches of snow on the ground at one time. The locals told us that this was unusual weather for Denver in September.

The boys were delighted to have so much snow in which to romp and play.  They found that they could tie wastebasket plastic liners over their shoes and they were just like boots.

We thought we had the boys prepared for winter since we bought them heavy winter coats.  It turned out that winter coats for Central Texas are not winter coats for Central Colorado.  Immediately, we bought heavy boots for the boys which were recommended for deep snow.  Soon they also had heavier coats, gloves and knit caps.

These new boots had thick rubber soles with heavy grooves that could carry tons of mud and snow into the house.  It took a time but the young gentlemen got trained to immediately remove the boots upon entering our home.

A few more light snows and ice accumulated in spots.  Soon our two rear-wheel autos started telling us that they needed also need snow boots.   We felt much safer after we gave them steel studded tires for their back wheels.  Now there would be better maneuverability and should not slide so easily.

What else could the mountain weather do to us when there were periods without snow.  Well, let me tell you what happened.  One night I was awakened by our house’s shaking.   I just knew that we were about to be blown into the Land of Oz.

If I had been back in Southwestern Oklahoma where I grew up, I would have crowded the entire family into a storm cave.  Not having such a cave, I just laid down on the den sofa on the first floor and prayed.  Jean and the boys slept through the whole thing and the winds eventually calmed down.  That was my introduction to Chinook winds.  These extremely strong winds come tumbling down out of the mountains and can be destructive to everything that is not tied down and to some things that are tied down.

The morning after the first of these winds that hit the Columbine area, I found that the iris bulbs I brought from home and planted in our back yard had been blown out of the garden soil.  They were replanted and we had a few blooms the next spring.

According to the calendar, it was still autumn.  More snow came on Halloween and then we had snowy weather much of the time.  By Christmas there was considerable snow on the ground.  Family came from Oklahoma and Texas to visit for the holidays and experienced their first really white Christmas.  The kids delighted in romping in snow up to their knees.  It seemed that much of that snow ended up in our house.  I remember a Christmas at home when we had two inches of snow on the ground and we were happy to have a White Christmas.

It was not long after New Years Day when winter really set in.  As I remember we had ten consecutive days in which the temperature did not reach zero degrees.  It was almost impossible to navigate the deep ruts in the thickly ice covered streets.  Again, we were told that this was unusual weather for Colorado.

The temperature got down to twenty-six degrees below zero at our  house.  That is fifty-eight degrees below freezing.  We believed that the North Pole could not be any colder.  By the way, that temperature was repeated the next year.

We had difficulty keeping the boys in the house when the temperatures were so low but our biggest problem was that the water lines in our bathroom on the first floor froze because of lack of insulation.   After a few uncomfortable days, the contractor corrected this and things were back in order.

When we planned our new home, we were unaware of the problems that could be involved with a garage driveway on the north side of the house.  The snows came and we did not remove it immediately.  The sun could not reach part of it.  We drove over it packing it into ice.

Soon the entire driveway was ice with ruts and we did a lot of slipping and sliding getting into our garage and I invented a few new cuss words.  Often it took several attempts before we succeeded without hitting the side of the garage door or the other car.  One time I slid into the mailbox but no real damage was done.

On of those bad-weather days, when I returned from work my friend and neighbor, Roy Phillips, came bounding over to me before I went into the house.  He had a possum-eating grin on face.  His grin turned into hilarious laughter as he told me what he had done for Jean.

After several unsuccessful attempted, she finally slid her car into the garage but it ended up parked sideways.  Her many attempts to get the car turned around and in its proper place failed, so she called Roy for help.  Someway he maneuvered the vehicle back where it belonged.  She did not have much to say to me about this episode but she still hears about it from guess who.

Even though we were repeatedly told that this winter weather had been unusual for Colorado, we did not believe it.  We felt that surely our vacation was over and we should return home.   Since our livelihood depended on our jobs in Colorado, we stayed here. After a couple of years, the usual weather returned and we adapted.  We got to love the weather and Colorado and we do not plan on returning to our old home except in a pine box.




The view out our window during one of our snow storms in 2011.

The view out our window during one of our snow storms in 2011.