Finding some good in a blustery winter day

Published 9:16 am Friday, February 11, 2011

Column: Dick Herfindahl, Woods & Water

Just the other day the wind was howling and there were a few flurries in the air when I decided to take a little cruise out to South Shore Drive just to enjoy a winter day. You might think that I’m a little strange, but there has always been something about a blustery winter day that makes me feel closer to nature. Maybe it’s the thought of being out in it without actually being “out in it” when I’m inside the confines of a warm vehicle.

Dick Herfindahl

When I was a teenager with a driver’s license, my friend Dwight and I would look forward to snowy nights when I would take my dad’s 54 Oldsmobile and throw a shovel in the trunk, pick Dwight up and we’d be off in search of snow drifts. The object of our little game was to find the biggest and the most snowdrifts to conquer on a given night without ending up in the ditch. Pretty dumb huh? I don’t think that my Dad ever suspected what we were doing, or I wouldn’t have been driving for quite some time. I can only remember a time or two that we were close to going into the ditch, but there were quite a few hours spent shoveling the car out and hoping we didn’t have to walk for help. Unlike today’s world there were no cell phones to call for help so your only hope was that if you had to seek help there would be friendly farmer nearby willing to lend a hand. If we did have to seek help I don’t think I’d have wanted to tell anyone the exact reason that we were stuck out on some lonely gravel road in a snowstorm. Maybe we were the first winter version of “storm chasers” and who knows maybe we were actual pioneers. I’d venture to guess that we would be closer to the dumb and dumber class than the pioneer one.

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The one thing that car had other than a hot engine was an awesome radio. I could pick up WLS, a rock and roll station out of Chicago, almost crystal clear and then there was KOMA out of Oklahoma which also played rock and roll. If you wanted country music I could pick up the Grand Ole Opry Saturday nights on one station and on a good night The Louisiana Hayride on another. Country back then was a lot more like bluegrass, but it was all good no matter what you preferred and I liked it all.

The year I was born we lived on acreage a few miles south of Twin Lakes. We had a horse (naturally), a cow, some chickens and a pig or two. I was too young to remember any of this but the folks talked about it enough so I could almost picture being there. My dad would tell the story of how he walked from Twin Lakes to Albert Lea in a blizzard one Christmas Eve. That particular Christmas Eve I was almost a year old and Mom, Dad and I were in town at my grandpa and grandpa’s place when Dad said he’d have to drive home to feed the animals before the weather turned bad.

We had an old Ford Model A pickup at the time, and he had headed home to do the chores. Before he reached home it had started to snow and by the time he was finished with chores it had turned into a full-blown blizzard. He must have made it north of Twin Lakes or even to the Kansota Farms before he got stuck. Of course, in those days very few people had telephones much more cell phones so my dad saw no other option but to walk to town. I don’t know how long it took and can’t even imagine how cold and miserable it must have been, but he somehow managed to make it through. Those were different times back then and the hardships that folks had to endure are hard to imagine in these days of iPods, Twitter and Facebook. There was no such thing as Gore-Tex or Thinsulate and in the winter you dressed in layers without anyone having to tell you to do so. Today you can’t even turn on the radio or TV without someone telling you how to dress for the weather. The other day they were giving tips on how to safely watch the Super Bowl. How indeed did we ever survive without all this knowledge?

My mother told me that our house was so cold that the curtains would wave in the breeze every time there was a strong wind. In the winter she said that we would wrap in blankets just to stay warm. It’s hard to imagine that your only contact to the outside world would be a radio.

Remember our brothers and sisters who are proudly serving our country so that we can keep enjoying the freedoms that we have today.

Dick Herfindahl’s outdoors column appears in Friday’s Tribune.