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Winter Days

by Yvette VanDerBrink


The Scientists keep talking about “Global Warming” and how the Midwest seems to be in some kind of cooker. I wonder if there is a hair of truth to that, Winters just don’t seem to be as snowy as when I was a kid.

Looking through those ol' South Dakota history books, all kinds of pictures with old timers and their horses and old cars posing by mountainous piles of snow. You just don’t see too many pictures now a days posing with the ol' Taurus by a great white wonder. Growing up there always seemed to be a blizzard almost every weekend. Not just your blowing snow, but a real blizzard. The kind that sent you packing for the grocery store wrestling for the last gallon of milk, elbowing for that last loaf of bread, and, of course, diving for those Twizzlers. Those blizzards lasted days and covered everything in sight.

On the farm, we’d wait till the winds quit howling and couldn’t wait to wake up to see what kind of winter wonderland was left behind. We could hardly see the roof on the pump house and forget about trying to drive out of the yard. We didn’t have to go to Great Bear, we had our own sliding hill right in the front yard. You could lose a small dog or child in that deep of snow. You would be walking along the cliffs and valleys of the snowdrifts and then whoop- you’d have your leg go through that cust up to your thigh. I’d be stuck yelling for my sister to pull me out. That was a stretch depending on how the day went for her.

That snow didn’t just accommodate a snow tunnel, but an elaborate underground fort. We had our own snow-tunnel-making machine too. Pebbles, our dog, would dig forever. We’d just yell “dig Pebbles dig” and she’d start digging us a tunnel. It saved us kids valuable snow/playing time. Mom would bundle us up like we were preparing for seal hunting in the Arctic Circle. I didn’t mind, but the worst thing was she used to make us wear Wonder bread bags over our socks and then put our boots on. This technique was supposed to keep our feet dry and warm. For a young stylin' gal, this was not cool. It was ok for home, but when putting bread bags over your socks and then boots, at school, well, the kids were staring at you like a circus freak.

Sometimes Mom would let us go outside when the storm wasn’t too bad. I liked to lay in the snow and see how long it took the winds to whip that white sugar over the top of me until it just about covered me up. I’d quick whip up a snow angel and move on to the next adventure. In the grove, the wind would whip the snow around the trees and make little caverns. It was like trying to climb Mt. Everest. We’d scale down to the bottom of the snow wall, look up, and watch the wind swirl the snow at the top while looking for the Abominable Snowman. Dad would watch KELO News and see what ol’ Dave Dedrick said about the storm. We’d hope they’d call off school.

I’d wake up in the morning to KSOO and Wayne Pritchard. I know that Mom cranked that to annoy me, but she’ll say that she liked him. Listening to Wayne Pritchard was like nails on a blackboard to me. When he retired, Mom sent him flowers and told him her oldest daughter couldn’t stand him... thanks Mom. Garretson hardly ever called off school. It was like a Old West stand off between Brandon and Garretson. Who could withstand the worst storm and still have school. We could hardly see the bus coming down the road. We’d stand in the porch of the old house and watch for it to come down the hill from Gardners and then run down the driveway, jump on the bus and look for that treasured seat by the heater. The bus route changed mid-year, then we couldn’t see the bus coming down the road. Dad, like a good junkman, put an old station wagon for us to wait in down by the dead-end sign.

Our road was always a tricky one in the winter. The trees made the snow pile up on the road. The bus was like a rat in a maze hunting for cheese, turning down a road, then another, and another, dodging blocked roads. Gene Engebretson was our Bus driver. He was a seasoned blizzard driver. You knew those drivers because they could dodge a drift and still look up in that big mirror to see who was running around.

One time we were on the road by Ollerich’s farm, in the path of the bus was a monsterous drift sweeping across the road. “Hang on”, the bus went air born and so did I. I flew 4 seats up, hit the ceiling and dropped in the aisle, my Valentines treats all over, dazed but ok. We were stuck, He rocked that yellow sub and tried getting out but had no luck. Finally Ollerichs had to pull the bus out with their tractor. We had just arrived at school, and I hardly had time to get my Wonder bread bags off, when they called school off. Everyone loaded back up and headed home. Dad didn’t always send us kids or come to the school and get us before a storm. Doppler Arthur knew weather and quite often he let the Super know the weather report.

When we got off the bus, it was a fight getting to the house. That northeast wind would whip around between the silos, and with an icy road, a 65 pound gal didn’t have a chance. I finally got to bring my Joker’s Wild game to school and they called it off. I got off the bus and the wind slid me across the road and tumbling down by the silos. My school bag and new game went blowing everywhere. Mom came down to rescue me and we tried to pick up what was left of my game. Some of the pieces had blown out in the cow yard with the bull. If you know a Holstien Bull, well he can play Joker’s Wild all he wants.

Dad would come up from milking cows and take off his frozen clothes in the mud room then sit down in his chair in his long johns, which I swear he wore all year-round like a good Norwegian. Checkers was his thing as well as making Kool-Aid Goop during blizzards. His personal invention was Dad’s only Cullenary skill. We’d take turns trying to beat Dad at checkers. I came close, but none of us kids could ever beat him. Then we’d run upstairs and jump under a pile of blankets. My bed was near the wall and I’d roll up against it and listen to the wind howl. Then bury down under the blankets like a bunny in a hay pile and wait to see if school was called off again tomorrow, hoping I’d get to go outside and play with the dogs in our winter wonderland. Oh we get a blizzard now and then, and when we do, I still love to bury under blankets and go out and play in the snow.

The Lil’ Nordstrom’s Gal

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