We are all a bunch of wimps

Part I

Like most winters, back in February 2007 we were host to a snowstorm — now this was NOT a blizzard — just a lot of snow that came down gently, although thickly and thoroughly. It closed schools, service centers and MnDOT even closed all the state and federal highways in and out of town. Most of the businesses closed, with the exception of one of our downtown bars that ended up doing a land-office business during this three-day sojourn. A worker there stated, “People could not get to work (or work was called off), but they were able to make it to the bar — people were three-deep here. One of the waitresses made $250 in tips the first night.” This storm was more like an event, coming at what should have been the end of our winter that gave everyone something to talk about. The media highlighted, especially, the coming of the storm — making it out like the biggest news story ever (in fact, I don’t recall hearing much about Iraq for four days). Our neighbor from across the street reveled in this event because he had a chance to get out his red snow blower, mounted on a little tractor, on which he was encased in its protective shield from the snow and temperature. He went up and down everyone’s driveway and sidewalks all the way down the street. He even did most of the work for the street department before they even had a chance to get out our way. Now, he didn’t just do this once, at the end of the storm; he did it several times during the storm as well. It was the chance he had been waiting for all winter — and it gave the rest of us something to watch in between the boredom of sitting in front of our TVs for four days.

But like I say, it was NOT a blizzard. If you want to know what a blizzard is — let me tell you about the blizzard of 1952.

I was in high school, living on our farm north of Hanley Falls. School had been called off and luckily all the students made it home before the blizzard hit. We had not made a special trip to town to stock up on food — we had a basement pantry full of canned goods that my mother always prepared each summer. One thing we did not have was electricity — since that was one of the first things to go out during a huge storm. But we still had an old wood-burning cook stove in the kitchen around which we gathered in order keep warm. There was no television in those days (at least not in our house), but we had a lot of good books and farm magazines that we could read. We did not talk with our neighbors on the old wall phone — we knew that we had to keep the line open for any emergency that might take place.

My father kept pacing the floor in the kitchen with a very worried look on his face. Finally, he announced, “Ellayne, get dressed for going outside — we have to get to the barn to open the door for the cattle so that they have enough air to breathe and get them some water.” I couldn’t believe what he was saying — the snow was so thick — the wind was so wild that we could hear it constantly howling like an injured animal around our little farmhouse. In disbelieving horror, I responded that there was no way that we could make it out to the barn and back in this blizzard. I even went so far as to say, “Let the cattle die –better them than us.” Well, that was the wrong thing to say to my father. He had struggled through the Great Depression, losing everything and then finally working his way back to economic security during the middle to late 1940s. You did not let cattle die — that was worse than burning money. Well, I got the message, and immediately started dressing for our trip into hell. It took quite awhile to get dressed. We donned long wool underwear, layered clothes over this, put on heavy coats, hats, mittens and finally my mother wrapped our wrists and ankles with long strips of woolen material (something we always kept on hand), tied scarves around our faces allowing a slit for our eyes to attempt to see through the snow. We did not say “good-bye” to my mother — that would have been too negative. Instead, my father told her NOT to call my brother, who lived on a farm about one mile northeast of us, no matter what!

(continued next week)