Gusts, Guts and Glory

By Rachael Horn

When OWP staff asked wineries to submit an interesting or amusing holiday story, Rachael Horn of AniChe Cellars delivered. Here is her bloody-good tale.

The Gorge is a windy place every season, so it's no surprise that we experience some brutal wind storms. A few winters ago, we had a particularly brutal westerly that felled trees, power lines and ripped roofs off houses and barns.

We awoke in the middle of the night to the horrendous sound of our metal roof being wrenched from its screws! The terrible ruckus of trees falling or huge branches being torn away became a common feature of that long night, along with the deafening whistle of hurricane-speed winds. We waited until morning to go out and assess the damage...

Not only had our power been out for hours by felled power poles, we had several trees down, many panels torn off our metal roof, and a fowl house tumbled over and collapsed! The wind was still blowing in gusts up to 60 mph, and the hazards of flying branches and debris were certain. Our four dogs were beside themselves in a frenzy, uncharacteristically chasing our terrified chickens and prized turkeys in utter chaos! I was furious and saddened to find my gorgeous 40-pound tom, intended for the Christmas table not six days in the future, mauled and bleeding under the stricken barn. My dogs had gotten to him in their berserk, wind-inspired blood sport, and he was not going to make it.

Intent on saving what I could of the tom, I decided to kill him immediately as he was clearly suffering a terrible wound. In the meantime, my husband, Todd, ascended the 40-foot peak of our roof in the treacherous climb of a ladder holding a drill and wrangling a piece of roof metal. As a safety precaution, he had tied a garden hose around his waist and anchored it around the decrepit chimney.

The wind roared. Todd stood at the top of the roof, wielding his drill in the battle of the decade. And I stood poised, ax in hand raised above a dying turkey. Time suspended for a surreal moment, as I faintly registered the sound of a car pull up our gravel road in the din of the terrible wind. My ax fell hard on the poor turkey's neck to the sound of a huge metal sheet tearing away from the roof, and Todd yelling foul expletives at the sky.

I swiftly grabbed the feet of the tremendous headless turkey, holding it upside down to let the flapping wings drain the blood from the neck wound, concerned eyes fixed on Todd on the roof desperately trying to hoist the roof panel cantilevered over the edge.

My arms began to ache from holding the huge turkey at arm’s length, my pants and boots were covered completely in turkey blood as I looked down, startled. Standing in front of me were two dourly dressed women, clutching bedraggled copies of The Watchtower, with wide, shocked eyes.

“Good morning,” I said with a slow-moving smirk — the comedy of the scene dawning on me.

“Uh,” the older woman stammered.

“Not a bad day to die!” I smothered a sudden hysterical laugh, slamming the turkey down on the chopping log with no small amount of blood splatter.

“Ummm…” the younger woman struggled to find her Witness dialogue.

“We are in the middle of something...normally I would invite you in. Can you come back later?” 

I interrupted her stammering and gestured with a bloody hand at the turkey and my husband on the roof, still cursing at the top of his lungs in his struggles with huge metal panels.

Both women stepped back, not taking their eyes off of me, nodding. They moved quickly to their car and drove off just as a torrential downpour began and my sense of comedy got the better of me. I was overcome with maniacal laughter. Todd nearly fell off the roof, he laughed so hard.

Later that night, we ate barbecue turkey with a lovely Roussanne sitting around the fire in candle light. When the storm was over, Todd fixed the roof. I bought a lovely free-range turkey from the local farmstand for Christmas dinner — turns out the tom would never have fit in my oven anyway.

We have yet to host Jehovah's Witnesses since.

Rachael Horn is the winemaker/owner of AniChe Cellars in Underwood, Wash.

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