The Cailleach has a long arm

Finally, a wee dusting of actual snow.

It was right about the time I started prepping the green chile stew that the Cailleach dropped her knitting atop Hag’s Head in County Clare and muttered, “Right, time that Ó Grádaigh gobshite in Albuquerque got the back of me hand so.”

Just a love tap, mind you. We are cousins, after all. I make it about four inches atop the wall. Still, it will require me to drag this old bag of bone splinters and bad ideas back and forth across the driveway for a spell, muttering about Gaelic deities and the length of their hairy auld arms.

It’s a refreshing 8° at the moment, a lovely temperature for a bit of upper-body work. I’ll happily take it over the -8° my man Hal is enjoying up to Weirdcliffe, where his Innertubes have quit but the woodstove remains on the job.

I remember those Crusty County temperatures, and not fondly, either. Tunnel out from under the covers at stupid-thirty, squeal like a little bitch, dash downstairs to the woodstove and feed it a few chunks, leap outside for more wood (and more squealing), then sprint back inside to melt the ice in the terlet with a good auld Guinness-and-Jameson’s wee.

It was all downhill after that, and I do mean downhill. We lived on a rocky outcropping 10 miles from town, one mile and 430 vertical feet from the county road, and once you got down to the bottom you mostly wanted to go right back up again, to where the whiskey and Guinness and woodstove were.

If I burrowed deeply enough into the covers the Cailleach couldn’t find me. That was the idea, anyway. I have lots of ideas.

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20 Responses to “The Cailleach has a long arm”

  1. Pat O’Brien Says:

    “Old bag of bone splinters and bad ideas” is magic. The deities, wherever they dwell, have given you the gift of gab.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Thanks, matey. I kinda like that one myself. It’s too good for me; I probably lifted it from somewhere. What’s the old line? “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal?”

  2. khal spencer Says:

    We got about three inches on the North side of the People’s Republic. The backyard thermometer hit -1 F before dawn. Was a toasty 5 above when I shoveled out the local sidewalks. Gorgeous morning, though. Absolutely beautiful.

  3. khal spencer Says:

    Beautiful post, by the way.

    Wish I knew you were selling the Weirdcliffe place. Woulda loved to have seen it but probably couldn’t have outbid whoever bought it. That was before my late uncle dropped a check on us in his will.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Thanks, bruh. I enjoy the writing. Occasionally I wish we’d held onto the place — especially since we lost all the gains to the market crash — but then I remember that on days like this we needed a Bradley Fighting Vehicle to get up and down the hill.

      • khal spencer Says:

        My mom and stepdad bought a little cabin southwest of Buffalo, well into the Snow Belt. Back in the sixties when we still had tough winters, we would have to park at the bottom of the hill along NY 242 and hike or shovel-hike up to the cabin. It had a wood fireplace but more importantly, a big fuel oil furnace that didn’t have ducts, so it just blew hot air into the center of the downstairs. That was the favorite place to be when we got their and turned on the electricity, went outside to turn on the submersible pump at the bottom of the well (to avoid a surface pump freezing solid) and settle in.

        That would be followed, usually, but a non-gourmet dinner of Dinty Moore Beef Stew. Mornings were the death march as I tried to keep up with the old man on his bird hunting excursions, usually involving upwards of six hours of hiking through the hills hoping for game. He was a hell of a shot and would bag grouse and pheasant that I wouldn’t even see until they were far away. Never figured out how he could do that.

        Unfortunately, that cabin has fallen (almost literally fallen) on hard times. Waiting for my younger brother to decide what he wants to do with the property. I really liked that place and offered to help rebuild something.

        • JD Says:

          Dinty Moore Beef Stew! I loved that stuff! Thanks for the memories, Khal!

          Also enjoyed a LOT of Spam recipes while stationed on Guam. 🙂

        • Patrick O'Grady Says:

          He who has not dined on the Dinty Moore has not lived. Ever drop an egg into that? Booyah. You needed a dollop of hot sauce, too.

          Another keeper from the Golden Era of Bachelor Cookery: The tinned corned-beef hash. O, lawd, did I ever eat the hell out of that. Breakfast/lunch/dinner in a can, just add eggs.

          Leave us not forget the ever-popular Totino’s frozen pizza. Sprinkled liberally with chile pequin and washed down with enough Falstaff longnecks, it could be mistaken for actual food, though the box probably had more nutritional value.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        We had a frosty hike like that once, after Thanksgiving 1998 (I think). Got four feet of snow all at once just in time to come back to Weirdcliffe from Fort Fun.

        We could just make out Brush Hollow Road by the fenceposts peeping out of the drifts and managed to stay out of the crick (left) and ditch (right) all the way to the bottom of our hill, where loomed this big ol’ elaborate ranch gate announcing “Lookout Ridge.” Lookout, indeed. As in, look out for some place to park the fuggin’ truck where we can get it back out again.

        While I shoveled a parking spot, Herself snowshoed up to the house. It took her a little over an hour to cover that mile. I followed, as did more shoveling, this time to clear the stairs that led down from where we usually parked to the deck and the side door. Also dug a path to the woodpile, because, duh.

        I believe it was the next day that I stomped a snowshoe circuit that wound down the hill and back up again from the meadow side, where I had my cyclocross course, and we used that for exercise for a while, because that four feet of snow wasn’t going anywhere fast at 8,800 feet in November.

        • Editor’s note: I just remembered I did an episode of Radio Free Dogpatch on this very topic, almost a year ago. Here it is.

  4. Chris Ivich Says:

    “The third-coldest temperature currently being reported was measured in Westcliffe, which is found at an elevation of 7733 feet above sea level. According to the National Weather Service, a temperature of -36 degrees Fahrenheit was recorded overnight.”
    Makes that 8 degrees seem balmy I’ll bet. (Or not.)

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Hal thinks that may have come from a weather station at DeWeese Reservoir, where it routinely is insanely cold.

      That said, we had a few days that were double-digit below-zero heart-stoppers. The wind chill made it worser. There was nothing between us and the Sangre de Cristos to shelter us from the wind. Here’s a view from the deck.

      The Sangre de Cristos, from our deck outside Weirdcliffe.

      • Click here for a bigger image.

      And here’s the deck, with house attached.

      Chez Dog outside Weirdcliffe

      • Click here for a bigger image.

      • khal spencer Says:


      • Shawn Says:

        Zillow value $656K? I’m taking a wild guess at where it is at up in the hills.

        • Patrick O'Grady Says:

          Good guess! The place has been “enhanced” since we sold it in 2007 (I think). I forget the square footage, but we were the po’ folk on Ridge Road, making do with a “great room,” one small bedroom and bath, and kitchen/dining room downstairs, and a loft master bedroom with bath upstairs. I think the place was right at or just under a thousand square feet.

          Everybody else on the hill started bigger and was adding square footage, and it looks like subsequent owners have done likewise to our old place.

        • Shawn Says:

          The photo that you once posted on here when you were at the base of your cyclocross course was the hint. It’s a nice area. But as you know, as we age those “farther down the road places” become harder to live in. It’s a damn shame that we aren’t all 25 years old again. I believe the wisdom of age is realizing that you really can’t go back. Well unless you’re Shirley McClain and you go back as one of Hal’s burros.

  5. Pat O’Brien Says:

    Albuquerque, aptly named Duck City by our erudite and respectable host on this here site, will be at 7 whole degrees tonight. Santa Fe, which is higher in elevation and further North than Duck City, will be at a balmy 11 degrees tonight. I require no explanation, scientific or otherwise, for this, and I will only say that you can keep that shit. I am old and cold. 100 degrees? Bring it on.

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