Hello there. I’m Blizzard. And before you ask:
Yes, that is my real name.
Yes, it is on my birth certificate.
No, my mother does not hate me.
No, my mother wasn’t “incapacitated.”
Yes, I got made fun of in school. Still do sometimes.
No, I don’t plan on changing my name when I turn eighteen.
And yes, there is a story behind the name. See, I was due on the very first day of spring and Mom decided that I was going to be the most gloriously beautiful, springtime baby the world had ever seen. So she decided my name would be May, because that’s her favorite month of the year. Don’t know that she even picked out a boy’s name. She was just certain I was a girl and she was right. What she didn’t take into consideration is the fact that babies almost never come on their due date and spring in Wyoming is always, always late. I came a whopping twenty-seven hours early in the middle of the worst blizzard our area had seen in a long time. Bad enough that on the way to the hospital my parents got stuck and I was born on the side of the road in my daddy’s pickup truck. Ambulance got there in time for paramedics to cut the cord and whisk the three of us to the hospital. Since my mother has a warped sense of humor, or justice (you be the judge), she pushed May to the middle and named me Blizzard. Blizzard May Jannsen, if you must know. Why didn’t Daddy stop her? Well, let’s just say he probably hadn’t forgiven me yet for the mess I helped make in his pickup. Men are sensitive about those things you know.
Anyhow, I’m the baby of the family. My older sister, and only sibling, is Scarlett India. Yeah, there’s a story there too. The way Mom tells it there are some women who crave weird foods when pregnant. You know, pickles with peanut butter, ice cream and hot sauce, that sort of thing. Some women become superhuman and can keep their houses spotless while creating every new baby craft under the sun and then some without so much as a wink of sleep. But some women crave activities and stories. Mom craved Gone With the Wind. She read the book at least a dozen times, watched the movie until her old VHS tapes stopped working and she could recite it from beginning to end. Mom even built a scale model of Tara which now resides in my sister’s room with the thirteen dolls in Civil War Era gowns Mom also made while pregnant. Daddy teased her that they must be expecting a boy named Rhett. Mom retorted that they were probably having Scarlett, since she was so in love with all the ball gowns, but if the baby turned out to be a boy he’d be Ashley Rhett. Scarlett’s glad she’s a girl. I did ask Mom once why she felt the need to use rival names for her. Mom shrugged. “Why not? They’re pretty together.” But Scarlett’s every bit as sassy as her namesakes, so I guess it works out.
There are ten years between Scarlett and me. Despite that, I’ve always felt close to her. She never left me out or got annoyed when I copied her. Well, if she did get annoyed she didn’t show it. We grew up on Starwood Acres, Daddy’s ranch. I remember lots of days riding horses through the pastures, watching the sun set over the hills, chasing butterflies through the yard and general country fun. Wherever Scarlett went, I did too, usually. Sometimes she went out with her friends and I stayed home, but always with the promise that we’d stay up late and she’d tell me all about her adventures. But things got tough as she got older. I was eight when she went off to college. While she visited as often as she could, it wasn’t the same as when she lived there. Instead of weeks together, it was just days and sometimes she couldn’t play because she had homework to finish. It didn’t last long though. Just before my tenth birthday Daddy had a heart attack during the night. He was gone before the paramedics arrived. Scarlett came home and announced her intentions to quit school and help Mom with the ranch. This created a monstrous fight which lasted nearly a week. Scarlett threatened to purposely flunk out of all her classes and Mom cried that Scarlett was throwing her future away. In the end, Scarlett agreed to finish the semester to get her associate’s degree if Mom agreed to letting her come home after that.
But that pretty much brings you up to speed on the Jannsen girls. Mom reminded the world why she was nicknamed the Iron Cowgirl during her rodeo days by sticking it out through all the difficulties after Daddy’s passing. She handled business with her head high and never let on that she was hurting. Not when people could see, anyway. The years passed and life continued on as normally as could be under the circumstances. Starwood Acres is still the prettiest spread in Wyoming. It’s set near the Grand Teton National Forest and it is a glorious sight. Mountains and trees melting into open rangeland. The air smells of pine and tall grass. There’s a little pond we go fishing in and a stream that sparkles through the pastures. At night you can see the stars dancing and twinkling and even in winter you can make out the Milky Way. It’s paradise on earth. Nearest city is Jackson, but for most of our everyday things we just travel to Pine Springs, a dinky little town. But even dinky towns have their celebrities. And ours is in the form of Josiah “the Bear” Meddleton. He was the star at all the school rodeos and when he left after high school to do the professional circuit, he left a slew of broken hearts behind him, including my sister’s. Needless to say, he’s not exactly on Scarlett’s list of favorite people. Why bring him up then? Well, because it’s his fault I have a story to tell anyway. If he hadn’t, well, I’m getting ahead of myself.
It all started this past spring when Josiah’s father had a stroke. He survived, but he was in pretty bad shape. Josiah left the rodeo circuit and came home to start running their ranch, the Double Rocking B. Pine Springs gave him a hero’s welcome and Scarlett started finding every excuse possible to avoid going to town. At first I couldn’t understand why. I mean, I knew she had dated him and all, but it didn’t seem very likely that she’d run into him there. Then I saw what happened when she went to the local quilting boutique to get a birthday present for our mom. “Isn’t it wonderful? Josiah Meddleton is back in town.” the proprietress gushed.
Scarlett stiffened. “I’d heard the Bear was back.”
She twittered, “Oh, Scarlett, it’s so odd to hear you use that name for him. Aren’t you excited?”
“Should I be?”
“Everyone knows you two were an item…”
“Yeah, he and every other girl my age were too, Amelia,” Scarlett retorted.
“Oh, honey, that was just high school. We all knew he only had eyes for you.”
I could hear Scarlett’s teeth grind as she plastered a smile on her face. “He did a good job hiding that from me, I guess. After all, it was just high school.”
“Well, perhaps now you can reacquaint yourselves.”
“I doubt it. He’ll be far too busy with his daddy’s ranch. How much for the fat quarters and yarn?”
Amelia rang up the purchase and began chirping about how wonderful it was to see children indulge their mothers’ hobbies.
“Actually, it’s purely mercenary,” I said. “If we get her fabric, she’ll make us quilts.”
Amelia laughed and waved us from the store. “Give Josiah a call, Scarlett. I’m sure he’d appreciate hearing from you.”
When we got out to the truck Scarlett tossed her purchase in the backseat, muttering under her breath. I watched her as she sat down and turned the ignition. “I know you’re going to ask,” she growled, “so just get it out of your system now.”
“Maybe I won’t, just to annoy you,” I said.
She glared at me, though she was smiling. Then she sighed. “Yes, this is why I’ve been avoiding coming to town. Everyone’s making such a big deal about him being back. Yeah, it’s all well and good that he’s come to take care of the ranch. But that should be expected, not celebrated. It’s what any responsible child would do. It’s what I did, and no one made a big deal out of it.” Her eyes looked out the windshield, but I could tell she wasn’t seeing the storefronts. I don’t know what she was seeing, but her expression was so sad I wanted desperately to make her feel better.
“Are you going to call the Bear?” I asked, holding my hands up as paws in front of me.
“Ha! When snow falls on the Fourth of July,” Scarlett muttered, before pulling out of the parking lot and heading down the familiar road to home.
Jessica L. Elliott
Author, artist, mom and super-genius