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Just a Good Ol’ South Dakota Winter

By Yvette VanDerBrink

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It never fails, if you are in the Midwest, you’ll hear people saying, “There aren’t winter’s like when I was a kid anymore.” Mother Nature had the last laugh this year and disagreed. She brought back one of those good ol’ fashioned blizzards last weekend crippling the entire Midwest. The internet was flooded with pictures of cars stranded, farms and roads buried with mountains of snow. Growing up on a farm in South Dakota, when one of these blizzards hit, we were anxious to get out and explore. I liked to go out in the storm and sneak down to the barn where Dad was milking cows. The cows would come up from the free stall and yard covered with snow and settle down in their spots in the barn for milking. One of my favorite things was breaking up a square bale and giving each of the cows a “book” or “section” of the alfalfa. They’d come running in and start tearing into the ground cord and the alfalfa bale throwing it up in the air. It was often our job to put it back in the bunk without making the cow kick in hopes that Dad wasn’t back there. The barn would get warm from all the cows’ body heat. The barn cats would be buried down in the hay waiting for milk from the bulk tank. Outside, the calves were bedded down in the straw. You had to be careful while spreading the straw, for the Holsteins would act like they were in a rodeo in their new mounds of straw. They would finally settle down and all you would see would be their black and white heads sticking out of the golden mounds.

We would be layered up with snow pants, multiple scarves, and of course, bread bag in our boots. I just hated that. My sister and I would venture out behind the house to find the biggest drifts and slide down them while coaxing our dog Pebbles to help us dig our snow forts. We would say, “dig Pebbles dig,” and the dog would start digging our snow tunnels.

My dad was a car collector and 1957 Chevrolets and GMs were his favorite flavors. In the grove, he would line his treasures up in rows. Some of them would have broken windows and the snow would just about burry them. We would find one of those cars that were covered except for the exposed side glass. Those provided us with an instant fort. We would shimmy down into the automotive shelter and look out the window opening to see nothing but fresh white snow everywhere. We would then shimmy back out to explore more of the newly formed "snow mountains."

At the time we did not have a 4x4, but we did have an Impala. We’d get a little stir crazy, and after the plow came through, we would get in the car and head to Sioux Falls to just get a treat at McDonalds or maybe see a Disney movie at the K Cinema. On the way home, Dad would turn into the alfalfa field with the lights off. Suzie and I would lean up on the back seat of the Impala waiting in anticipation for Dad to turn the lights back on to see the jackrabbits flying around everywhere. If the snow wasn't that deep during a full moon, Dad would drive through the field turning the Impala into a snowplow and scared up the jackrabbits. I can still remember all those long-eared rabbits dodging the headlights.

A lot of people back then had a 4x4 truck. We had a Ford ½ ton 2WD pickup that Dad rebuilt. We would pile in the pickup to “see how bad the snow was.” We would drive until the road was blocked to evaluate “just how bad it was.” When Dad finally got a 4x4 pickup, a Ford he rebuilt, it was game on! Seeing the Nordstroms were always up for an adventure, we would pile in the pickup to see if we could make it to Midway Station six miles away, for a “goodie.” Dad would eyeball up the drifts and hammer them down. We would be laughing and cheering when we went a bit airborne. Then we would see if any of the other farmers made it to the Midway Station. Dad would be talking about the roads and weather with them and we’d get a goodie to eat. I generally got a Bing bar and an O-So Grape pop. After we had our treats we’d head home.

When CB’s became popular, Dad outfitted the truck with one and we’d venture out to pull people out of the snow. When I was in high school, we’d make a little extra money pulling people out if we got to drive the Ford into town. I learned some chaining and tow strapping skills that I still use today getting ready for our auctions pulling treasures out for auction. Yep, a very useful skill indeed. Always had to remember to get out and lock in hubs. We had to take the “Art” 4x4 course before we got to take it to town.

I can remember some pretty bad winters and being stuck for days and not being able to go anywhere. The principal would quite often called my dad and see how bad the roads were in Edison Township to decide whether or not to call school. I loved to watch the snowplow try and get through the big drifts, ramming into them with snow flying everywhere.

After a day of exploring, we’d come back in the house and take off all the layers of winter clothing. Sometimes, your pants were so full of snow they stood up by themselves. It didn’t matter that it was winter and the weather was harsh, it seems like cars were always part of it. A lot of people stayed home, but not the Nordstroms, we had to try and see what it was like out there. Whether it was an Impala or a Ford pickup, we were out there. This weekend brought back images in my mind of those good ol’ blizzards. There aren’t as many jackrabbits anymore, but I still get stir crazy and have to get out and get a “goodie” or check out the "snow mountains." I have a good truck and always have a tow rope in the back and don’t miss a chance to use my redneck chainin’ and pullin’ out skills. Yep, just a good ol’ South Dakota farm gal that loves a little adventure. Spring is coming and with it comes mud, but that’s life in the Midwest. See you at the auctions!

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Yvette VanDerBrink- Auctioneer
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The Salvage Princess- The Lil’ Nordstrom’s Gal

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