Thanksgiving Memory

Thanksgiving by Norman Rockwell

Thanksgiving by Norman Rockwell

As a kid I lived on a farm about two miles outside a small village called Barnes, Kansas. It was the day before Thanksgiving 1952 and we heard on the radio that a blizzard was headed our way, so my mother took my baby brother and went to town to stock up before it hit.

In those days, if a storm hit, the roads could be blocked with drifts, the electricity was usually the first to go, and frequently, the wind and snow caused what is called a whiteout, literally no visibility. It seems that winters then had more snow, were colder and lasted longer.

My mother got to town but the storm hit so fast and hard that she had to stay with some friends in town. That left my old man and me to tend to the 100 plus cattle, pigs, chickens, horses and other assorted members of the farm menagerie. The wind raised hell, of course the electricity went out and we used kerosene lamps for light. Luckily we had a propane floor furnace which needed no electric fan so we stayed warm.

Thanksgiving blizzard

Thanksgiving blizzard

Getting to the barn, which was about a hundred meters from the house, was no fun. During blizzards, we tied a rope from the house to a small shed about half way to the barn and then another rope from there on to the barn. We did this to guide us because from the house the barn, nor any of the out buildings, could be seen. Once you stepped outside, you were nearly blind. Farmers in the Great Plains had been found frozen to death from wandering in circles in a blizzard white out. However, regardless of the weather, the cattle, hogs and other farm animals had to be tended to…twice a day!

In the barn we could take care of the animals, break the ice on the stock tank and attempt to start the oil heater in it which kept the stock tank from freezing solid (and which often blew out). It took a couple of hours to feed the animals and drop down straw for their bedding. Then another exhausting walk back to the house. The wind was so fierce you had to turn your head away just to get your breath. Opening the porch door was extremely difficult because of the wind.

Thanksgiving after the storm

Thanksgiving after the storm

Since my mother had been unable to get back with our groceries, and since the old man was not a cook, we ate fried eggs mixed with sliced potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner that year (and every other meal for that matter).

That storm raged on for a couple of days and when it finally lifted we waited another day thinking the snow plow would come. However, it could not get to our place because the drifts were so high and the going was slow. So we hitched a trailer to a tractor and rode the crest of the snow to town, literally over the tops of the fence posts and brought home my mother, my brother and our Thanksgiving dinner. Although late, THAT dinner was one I was REALLY thankful for.

Remembering what life was like on the farm made going through Army basic training, infantry training, Special Forces qualification and drowning in the pool during scuba training at Key West seem a lot easier… 🙂

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