“Come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly.”
What a beautiful view, the pinks and blues are the dreams of Renaissance painters, my camera cannot do them justice. I had to take this shot while at work because it’s as dark as four feet up a bull’s ass by the time I get home. So here is my view to the west from the cab of a $350,000 John Deere 9570R. No I didn’t buy it, I detailed it for the new owner. He was pretty tickled.
My grandfather used to say that “sun dogs” meant six more weeks of winter but only six more would be proof of catastrophic, world-ending global warming. There’s actually ten to fifteen weeks, if there’s a day. Guaran-damn-teed.
Let me explain a couple things that even color can’t show…
The sun-dogs are caused by ice particles lofted high into the atmosphere by the 40+ mph winds on the ground. Definitely in person, possibly in my photo, you can see the clouds of drifting snow swirling thousands of feet into the atmosphere near the rainbow reflections of the sun, like your grade school science teacher showing you a prism, except colder than a well-digger’s gizzard. Near the ground the wind-driven snow at best covers the road two feet deep, you can see for miles four feet off the ground but you have to drive “by-feel” because below that everything is covered by swirling, impenetrable snow. When it feels like you have two wheels in the ditch you swerve left a little and pray a lot. At worst there are hundred meter long stretches of white out and you drive by the seat of your pants, once again deep in prayer. You can always tell a used car from Minnesota by the pucker-marks on the driver’s seat.
My sister describes the winter sun as “broken.” Everywhere else on earth the sun provides light and heat but here in Minnesota it’s broken. It provides the beautiful, dramatic light you see above but not a lick of heat. Outside the state of the art John Deere cab I took this from, the temperatures are in the -18 to -20 range. The weather idiots always add in wind chill but I already mentioned the 40+ mph winds. This is the Great Plains, just let me know if the wind doesn’t blow one day, I’d hate to let that go unnoticed. -20 ain’t fit for a wholly mammoth, any wind merely makes it outrageous, why are you trying to make me feel worse?
My grandmother’s grandfather, Gustav and his family, came here from Sweden in 1869. In January 1873 Gustav and one son were caught in a blizzard while collecting firewood 20 miles from the sod house. There weren’t many trees here then, 20 miles away were the nearest and they were damn few. The horses may well have stopped at the family’s home but been whipped on because the men couldn’t see it through the blinding snow and didn’t know they were at salvation’s doorstep. They cut the horses loose fifteen miles later and were found, frozen and huddled beneath a buffalo robe the next week by John Christian Johnson, my great-grandfather and Gustav’s 14 year old son, after the horses returned home. Anna, Gustav’s wife, brought the bodies of her husband and son into the dirt-walled, dirt-floored sod house with her seven children for a week so the bodies could thaw and be laid into coffins. They took the wooden door off the barn to build the coffins and replaced it with a blanket. We believe the bodies were stored outside til spring when the ground thawed and graves could be dug. That 14 year old was the man of the house from that day forth. My Dad remembers him from when he was a small child but other than that great-grandpa is lost to history.
Sometimes surviving is its own prize. Like Lt. Dan swinging from the mast, asking God if that’s all he’s got, sometimes just getting through is a reward many don’t earn. Sometimes the best you can do is all you can do. Sometimes that’s enough.