The Winter’s Were Cold But The Memories Are Warm
It’s been a decade or so that my parents left the planet. But I can still here my Dad talk about ‘winter in the old days’, which for him were the 1920’s and 1930’s.
‘We had to walk to school uphill both ways through the snow.’ ‘ It was so cold our words would freeze in mid air as soon as we said them.’ ‘The chickens would lay frozen eggs.’
I thought he was crazy.
I said the same things to my kids, and now to my grandkids.
They think I’m crazy.
We lived on a rented 80 acre farm. The buildings were all old, the house, the hoghouse, the grainary, the barn (which burned down), the chicken coop. It was the only place on that mile stretch of gravel road just south of Leota, Minnesota. And while the winter memories of that place and time ring cold on the printed page, the memories sure do bend comfortably to the warm side.
Those winter memories include straw bales, plastic, gas lanterns and rope.
The straw bales would be stacked around the house. Apparently that ‘ol house wasn’t insulated too well, so the straw bales would ring the house to keep the wind and cold out, and the big oil burner in the living room would be cranked up.
The plastic would go over all the windows, downstairs and up. Tacked up tight over the windows on the outside, it still wasn’t quite enough to keep it warm in that north upstairs bedroom, so that door would stay closed and my brother and I would share the south bedroom, the one with the warm stove pipe going up through it.
The gas lantern (kerosene actually) were always kept handy, winter or summer, because the lights tended to go out some. A blizzard would hit and those wires strung along that gravel road couldn’t handle it…and it just might be a bit before they were fixed.
Oh, and the rope? If I recall correctly (and often I don’t), it was the winter of 1968-69 when we got around 100″ of snow through that winter season. I mean, it was piled high and stayed that way! Riding in the car with my dad and mom (when the road would finally be opened) was like riding through a tunnel. And I remember my dad on a couple occasions tying rope (or maybe twine) together and running it from the house to the hoghouse and grainery because it was snowing so hard you literally couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. So…you’d hang on to the rope (twine) and follow along.
There would be days where we didn’t go anywhere. The road was drifted shut and besides, the weather was too bad anyway. Dad would clear out the yard best he could with a loader on that old ‘A’ John Deere and best of all, no school!
But of course, when there was school, we walked through the snow up hill both ways. And it was so cold the words froze in midair as soon as they came out of our mouth. And yes, the chickens would lay frozen eggs.
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