I don't usually suggest books to read, but after last week's snowstorm, and having a lot of time looking out the window at the 16 inches of snow that arrived on my driveway, I'm going to make an exception.
If you ever get a chance to read the book "The Black Loam of Iowa," by James Walsh, read it, especially if you are a history buff and enjoy reading of the history of the great plains and what our long past ancestors had to deal with just for us to be here now.
In that vein, I'm going to quote some of Chapter 18 dealing with one of the blizzards of 1886 to 1888. You'll sit closer to the fireplace after reading that chapter.
The story revolves around the author's great-grandfather, John Walsh, an Irish immigrant farmer who homesteaded seven miles south of LeMars, Iowa, in the mid-1880s. His story takes up with a usual trip to town to garner supplies for the homestead and purchase needed food supplies as well.
John Walsh and his wife headed home after a day of shopping. They noticed an ominous look to the northwestern sky as their horses chugged along the road back to the homestead.
I quote: "When they were two miles from home the wind shifted to the northwest and a light drizzle began to fall. In less than a half hour the temperature had dropped 40 degrees and the drizzle turned into a fine snow. The snow thickened and turned into a fine powder of razor-like crystals swept along by a hurricane-force wind."
"They had been traveling with the wind, but a quarter of a mile from their house John turned the horses west. The horses, pulling a heavy sled, stopped when they came face to face with the howling wind and would not pull any further. John, having heard of this experience, unhitched the team, knowing that the horses would find their own way home. John and his wife held onto the horse's harnesses as the team plodded on to their farm. The team let out a "winnie" when they reached the barn."
"John's kids were anxiously watching out the windows of the cabin for the return of their parents. The blizzard raged through the next day and the next night. The thermometer dove to minus 40 degrees below zero. The house, barn and the cattle shed were almost completely covered with snow. All of the Walsh cattle had been able to make it to the shed."
"Several families in the northern counties froze to death during the blizzard. Many in Plymouth County lost all their livestock. Many settlers lived in flimsy shacks built of cottonwood lumber and heated by small sheet iron stoves. A settler returning from Sioux City, where he had been marooned when the storm struck, found his flimsy cabin blown apart and his family of seven scattered about frozen in the snow.
"In the cattle country of the Dakotas and Nebraska, cattle drifted with the storm until they headed up against some fence or bluff and froze to death by the thousands in standing position with their tails to the wind. Children left school for a home a half a mile away and froze to death. A farmer drove his team to within one hundred feet of his house and perished in drifts twenty feet high."
These are just some of the words of James Walsh. His homestead was located only three miles north of the farm I grew up on. Today we are totally immersed in weather forecasts and reports. Sudden, unexpected storms are no longer as unexpected as in John Walsh's day.
If you can find a copy of "The Black Loam of Iowa," I would encourage you to read it and get a perspective of what early pioneers were up against. Last week's blizzard made me pull this book from my shelf and give it a re-read. It helped pass the time of day as 16 inches of snow plugged our driveway.
After reading James Walsh's words, I'm not complaining.
See you next time. Okay?