We had another one of those Iowa Winter Mornings this morning; temp. at minus 11, wind chill at minus twenty eight. It’s the kind of winter that makes some older people stop in the post office lobby and talk about it. Like the fellow yesterday.

 

My neighbor yesterday was recalling the winter on thirty-six. Claimed that the snow commenced during Christmas vacation and school didn’t take back up until seven weeks later. The snow kept the schools closed for six of those weeks; the seventh week there was no school because the snow went as fast as it came. The unfrozen soil under the snow turned to mud keeping the roads closed for an additional week. “Yep; that winter of thirty-six!”

 

It was probably the winter of thirty-six that my dad talked about: Claimed that some Amish school kids in Buchanan County, IA had went to school barefoot the last day before Christmas break. He was doing chores for some neighbors who were visiting out of state and he got snowed in at their place. Finally by Epiphany (Jan. 6 or “Alt Grishtag”) he decided he had to venture out and at least see his folks for a couple of hours. He saddled his horse and made off across the field. I believe he had two miles to go. It would have been a mile further if he had stayed on the road. The snow was so deep that none of the fence lines were visible and the horse had a terrible time making headway. They eventually got some relief when they got to the woods behind their house. The trees shielded them from the wind and the snow was decidedly less deep. Their good fortune held out until they came to ‘The Crick.’

 

Otter Creek ran through the middle of Grandpa Jonas’ forest. Grandpa and my dad ran a saw mill and typically spent their winters using the frozen ice on the creek to skid logs closer to the mill. Today, when they got to Otter Creek they found the banks level full with snow. The only way they knew they were at the creek was that there were no trees growing there. ‘Full speed, ahead!’

 

What little ice that hadn’t melted beneath the snow held until horse and rider got to the middle of the stream. Suddenly the horse plunged belly-deep into the icy water and the top of the snow was now higher than Dad could reach from horseback. Working together, dad worked the snow down past the horse’s head and neck while the horse pawed it into the water where it was washed away. In this way they carved a path the rest of the way across to the far bank.

 

Once out of the creek, Dad and his horse were both completely soaked and they still had an eighth of a mile to the barn. Grandpa saw them coming and met them at the barn. By this time Dad and his horse were one icy clump. Grandpa pried them apart, (removing plenty of horse hair in the process,) and carried my dad to the house. Using his pocket knife, he slit the seams on dad’s new denim trousers, pulled them off and literally set them to stand upright by themselves in the corner of the room.

 

Never could remember how the neighbor’s chores got done that evening.

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