Saturday, January 23, 2016

Noses are on sale, if you can make to the store!

My readers up north are getting slammed by a blizzard today. It is a reminder of the blizzard of 1978.  I remember that one. We had a snow drift that covered the south side of our house for a month.  I was on the farm in Iowa then.  North Carolinians have no idea what a real blizzard is like.  If there is a rumor that it might snow, I make my appearance at the store, to perform my southern duty to help clear the shelves of milk and bread.  Not because I have to, I am a northerner after all.  But you do what's expected of you when you live down here.  Neighbors expect to see their neighbors at the store for a chat, and if you're not there, they wonder if something is wrong at home.

The blizzard of 1978 lasted 3 days and the snow came down sideways.  Our farm was in town, believe it or not.  
When I want to impress people, I tell them "Yeah, our farm bordered most of the town I grew up in".  What I don't tell them, our town had a grain elevator and one street lined with a grand total of 12 houses.  That's it.  One of the driveways on this street was our lane, which was 1/4 mile long.   We'll just keep that between you and me, all right?

My grandfather worked for the railroad during the blizzard of 1936.  That was the blizzard to beat all blizzards. He drove a road grader, a machine with a large blade to resurface or "grade" a gravel road.  This was done to fill in ruts or holes, and to move the gravel back to the center of the road

On February 6, 1936, a blizzard stopped all activity in the region.  Temperatures dropped to 25-below-zero and the train was held up in Worthington, Iowa for nine days.  There was no relief in sight from the snow and high winds for days to follow.  It filled up valleys and produced huge drifts that blocked roads and even had the railroad at a halt.  This caused depleted supplies and many families had to risk walking into town to get needed supplies that may or may not be available.  Schools were shut down indefinitely and shoveling produced snow piles ten to twelve feet high in front of businesses.

Doctors couldn't get to ill patients and the farmers organized to drive in shifts to get the doctors around.  Getting the doctor from place to place took thirty-eight men and twenty horses just to go eight miles in the blizzard. The horses and men simply got mired down trying to get through such harsh conditions. 

When the trains were finally moving 2 weeks later, with plows mounted to the front, they had to barrel through the drifts at 35 to 40 miles per hour to get through.  The depot had to board up windows to prevent them from breaking when the trains blew through.

Early on in the blizzard, my grandfather heard news that 3 men driving snowplows on Hwy 69 were buried in snow, trapped and no one could reach them for rescue.  He worked his road grader for nearly 2 days, with no sleep, to reach the men. Iowa Governor Clyde Herring honored him for the extreme measures he took to save his co-workers from certain death.

My grandfather was a great man.  He was humble and quiet, and when he spoke he usually had something good to say.  In fact, I had him in my life until I was 29 and never knew he had been honored by the governor of Iowa.  The story was told at his funeral, to the astonishment of all his grandchildren.  I wish I had spent more time listening while he was still living.  Perhaps he would have said more.

Blizzard of 1936 - Iowa 

Well, I should sign off now.  There's a rumor going round that it might turn to sleet tonight and I have an appearance to make.  I need to do my makeup and hair.

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