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The Last Windrow: We used to weather the weather

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Did any of you live through the “polar vortex” we experienced last week? Well, if you’re reading this, you evidently somehow found a way to survive.

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I’m wondering why our current news anchors are allowed to sit in their warm indoor chairs and have some poor weather man or woman stand outside beside a frozen parking lot, with their lips freezing to the microphone while telling us how cold it is?  

It just doesn’t seem fair somehow. Everyone should have to suffer his or her turn!  

Somehow I used to feel warmer during these type of hard winter events. Perhaps it was because we never had such a thing called “wind chill” when I grew up among those corn rows and thistle patches.

We left the house in the dark of early morning every winter day to service our livestock and never once did we stay inside because it was “too cold.” I remember walking backward to the barn to avoid that cutting Iowa winter gale.  

Deep winter was one time of the year when it was pleasant to experience the warmth created by the combined body temperatures of a herd of Holstein cows who had stood in their stanchions overnight in that un-insulated barn.

We didn’t seek their heat when the temps hovered in the 90s in July.  

It was a rare day when the bus did not pick us up at the end of the lane. We chugged out to the bus stop wrapped in a multitude of clothing items, including scarves, heavy coats, mittens, four buckle overshoes and thermal underwear. Buses were almost always on time and we never had to stand on the tundra very long until the big yellow bus swallowed us up and toted us to Hinton Community School, seven miles away.  

Only a raging blizzard or ice storm would give cause to cancel our school. I prayed earnestly for this to happen more than it ever did and I listened eagerly in front of the radio on the mornings the announcers were giving the school cancellations. I always thought our school officials got a devious sort of pleasure out of teasing us by sending in our school cancellation at the very last of the list.

True, your face can freeze into a permanent contortion when the temps drop through the basement floor. It is a dangerous situation to ever be caught out in minus 30 temps. Nothing works like it does in warmer times.

Tractors don’t start, grain augers don’t turn, water doesn’t flow, door knobs don’t turn and if a furnace were ever to “give up the ghost,” it would be during a cold-spell like we had last week. You can count on it.  

Anyone who has ever tried to start a Model A John Deere by turning over the flywheel on a 30-below-zero morning can attest to how cold cast iron can become.  

We honestly have it good these days. I have a book that was written by a pioneer who had homesteaded near our farmstead. One of the chapters deals with a family that was running low on wood to keep their sod house from freezing solid. The husband and son took the horse and sleigh and headed for a creek bottom 12 miles away with a blizzard on the doorstep. They didn’t return for three days.  

In the days before cell phones, this would have produced some high anxiety in house, I would think. The duo miraculously reappeared one afternoon with a ground blizzard nipping at their heels. They had a load of wood. The family survived.  

We don’t have it so bad.   

So, we will weather the weather again this year and most of us will have lived through the “polar vortex” and will tell our grandkids about how bad we had it back in 2014, the year Gov. Dayton canceled school.

I doubt if the governor of Iowa ever considered such a choice in 1958 — the years before “wind chill” — and we were just tougher then!

See you next time. Okay?

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