Have I Ever Been Snowed-In?

Well, I Guess I Have

By Jeff Salter

Before I begin, let me establish that I’d had no prior experience with a septic system. Now, you’ll need to read to rest of my blog to learn what that has to do with our weekly topic, “Have we ever been snowed-in?


Prior to my recent Kentucky years, my primary experience with snow was two years in Chicago as a toddler, one year in Mt. Pleasant IA as a high school sophomore, and about a year stationed inside the Arctic Circle at Thule Air Base, in N.W. Greenland. In Greenland, as you can well imagine, we had a winter full of snow and “Phase” storms… but that base was extremely well equipped to deal with those frigid conditions and I only recall a few times that conditions were so awful that I couldn’t get where I had to go (by some means).


I can’t swear which of the numerous major snowfalls – since we’ve lived these 13 winters in KY – but it was one of those several in which we had 9-12 inches of snow in a short period… that clogged the streets for days and stayed on the ground for a week or more.


This is from a different year, but gives you a sense of how difficult it can be to traverse the Cemetery Road (at left). In this instance, once we finally got my truck out to the “main” road (McKee), we had to park it there and trudge the 350 feet through calf-high snow to get home.

At such times, since we are on a street that’s cleared AFTER the primary and secondary roads are scraped, we’re often stuck for multiple days at a stretch. Even after our street (McKee) is cleared, sometimes the county road (Cemetery) is still covered in snow and/or ice. And even after the county road and hill is cleared, we still have 150 feet of snow-bound gravel driveway that must be traversed. I guess you see what I’m saying here: we’re rather isolated and until each of these lanes is satisfactorily cleared, we can’t go anywhere in a vehicle. I still have to walk over to my Mom’s house each day, regardless… and that’s 400 feet of misery with my arthritic hips. [And a story for another time.]


Not the year in question, but this gives a good idea of what our driveway looks like when covered in snow.

All I’ve said so far is merely to establish my bona fides… vis-à-vis that I’ve been shut-in because of winter weather. But the second part of our topic was: how did I cope?

Funny you should ask.

And here’s where the septic tank comes in.

On the very first day of this particular snow-bound event, my wife noticed there was water – really UGLY water – backing up in the shower drain in the lower level of our house. I figured it was just a clog somewhere, so I got out a 50-foot snake and went after it. No dice. Whatever the problem was, it involved a lot more than a simple clog.

With some help – by phone or text (I can’t recall which) – from a cousin-in-law plumber, I reached the menacing conclusion that our septic tank was FULL… and therefore no longer “accepting” what we’d been sending down the line.

Remember me saying that I had no experience with septic tanks? Well, who would’ve known – if you’ve never had a septic system – that you have to pump out the tank every few years? I thought I’d understood our contractor to say that the leech lines took care of “distributing” the waste.

Oh well.

So, now I realize we have to get somebody with a pump and tank truck to clean out this clogged mess… but the roads are still axle deep in snow. Maybe, if we’d lived inside the city or on one of the major thoroughfares, we could’ve had that tank serviced on the first day. Maybe. But with all the road issues I outlined above, you can understand that not only could we not get OUT… but nobody could get IN to help us.

So, for the next 4-5 days, we couldn’t shower, couldn’t wash clothes or dishes, and had to very sparingly flush the toilet. In the interest of T.M.I., I won’t go into detail on that toiulet determination, but suffice it to say — anything we flushed was coming back up the downstairs shower drain.

Finally, the roads cleared enough for the septic cleaner guys to come out. They made short work of the dirty mess… and clucked at my excuse that I had no idea the tank had to be emptied. Afterwards, we scoured the downstairs shower, of course… and proceeded to catch up on both the dishes and clothes. And resumed the wonderful feeling of being CLEAN… after a long hot shower.


Had the septic system been properly functioning, being “snow-bound” would not have been any particular problem – since we’re both retired – provided we continued to have power and internet!

[JLS # 416]



About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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13 Responses to Have I Ever Been Snowed-In?

  1. I know that one! When I moved with my family to Idaho, we had never experienced a septic and boy, what a mess when we filled it soon after moving there.The field had also deteriorated. There are pictures of my sister and me trying to find the field…and the tank.
    I moved back to civilization a little less than a year and a half later and got complicit with sewers again. Fast forward to MY move to KY 25 years ago and bingo! We have a temperamental tank that needs cleaning quite often.I am more than familiar with the problem you encountered…all too often.
    It’s gotten to the point that we found one good man who now does all of our work, and he comes out quickly. We have become quite friendly, unfortunately. I mean, that’s how often we see him in our back yard.We go out and ask about eachother’s kids…by name.
    We now know to ‘baby’ the septic…no powdered detergents. The clothes washer and dish washer never on at the same time. Oh, and if it has been raining a lot, to avoid doing the laundry. Our’s started to back up, we called “Danny” after it started to back up after particularly heavy rains.He told us to stop putting any more water down for a day and see if it didn’t clear up on its own; it did. The ground was too saturated to accept any more water. (Yep, he’s that good.)
    Very little paper goes down our toilets; we change the wastepaper baskets in the bathrooms at least once a day, even when it’s just two of us.
    I get laundry done quickly when I see that storms are in the forecast, and hold off when they come.
    Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      I’d hate to have to deal with such a temperamental septic system. But it sounds like you’ve got it down to an art. It also sounds a bit like a scene in a Chevy Chase movie. LOL
      When our guy came out — after the streets were sufficiently scraped — his first comment was, “I hope you don’t have one of those diverter valves in there.” [Later learned that we didn’t.] the next concern was that our contractor’s plumber had installed a tank with a square lid… but over that lid was a smaller ROUND cap. So it was not possible to open the round cap and then lift the square lid. We had to DIG out the ground to access the square lid and then install a new square cap for the future occasions.


      • We have to dig our square lid out, too, but now we can eyeball it since we have done it so often.
        I hope I never heard the pre-back-up ‘glug-glug-glug’ of the toilets ever again, but I am not putting money on it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Patricia Kiyono says:

    I grew up in a suburb with city sewer, so I’d never dealt with a septic tank until we moved “farther out” of town. Fortunately, my hubby grew up in the country and knows what to do. I’m more than happy to leave that responsibility to him. Your ordeal certainly sounds like an adventure I wouldn’t volunteer for! I’m sure you won’t soon forget to empty the tank. And I agree, being snowed in isn’t a problem as long as you have electricity!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jeff Salter says:

      This blog reminds me that it’s getting close to the point that we need to call our tank guy again. I just need to nail down when this horrible event occurred.


  3. That sounds like an awful way to spend a week being snowed-in!
    Also it sounds like a snow mobile might be a good idea for you. It would certainly get you to your mom’s and back without being so hard on you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      I don’t think it was a complete week — though (under those circumstances) — it probably felt like one. I think it was more along the lines of 4 days we had to wait for the roads to be cleared enough for the truck to get in.


  4. jbrayweber says:

    Ewwwww. Being snowed in would be a nightmare in itself. But the full septic? Noooooo! Just, no. My parents have lived in their house for 40 years and have their own septic. It has never been “full”. I guess it’s different than what you are talking about.

    Your experience does remind me of the roughing it we would endure after a major hurricane, though. No electricity and impassable roads for days and weeks. We’d have plenty of dirty dishes, clothes, and ration the food. We’d usually have enough food, it’s just food I didn’t want to eat. Haha!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your parents have a great tank,Jen, put in well and probably a great field. The clay of Kentucky soil gets hard and it makes it difficult for the water to leach out. Tree roots are also a problem. Part of ours happened to have been a pipe that bent down and went INTO the water of the tank, so that it got clogged easily. We cut the pipe, but the last clog was either a wet wipe that someone put into the toilet or perhaps one of my lidocaine pain patches for my back came off and went into the bowel. That’s ALL it took. (Piece of crap septic!)

      Liked by 1 person

      • jbrayweber says:

        Not sure, Tonette. The tanks are right behind the house. I remember when it was being built (my dad essentially built most of the home) and for years the grass had a hard time growing there. LOL! I think I remember an issue with the leach line once, but not the tanks.
        Sounds like you had a nightmare on your hands. I’ll consider us lucky!!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      those hurricane experiences sound awful. A person can feel so helpless when roads are impassable and food supplies become thinner each day. And having dirty dishes and clothes piling up — yuck.
      BTW, Jenn. I’m not getting notifications for the Muse Tracks Writing Prompts lately. Are you on hiatus?


      • jbrayweber says:

        Yeah…the worst was Hurricane Alicia in terms of how long we were without. Two weeks. Ugh! To this day, when we have thunderstorms, I have the urge/need to clean my house.

        Re: prompts. I haven’t done prompts the last couples of weeks due to the holidays. It becomes overwhelming to keep up with normalcy. LOL!

        Liked by 1 person

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