Winter Sketches

I have two stories that rumble around in my head  each winter, when the weather gets testy, this year I added a third.

First story

(And you may have heard this one before).

Growing up, my Grandpa would talk about a train  that derailed south of his farm in the dead of winter, January of 1929.   The train derailed and “turned turtle”  (went over on it’s back)  when it hit a hard snow drift.  One of the engineers (Roscoe Stevens) was trapped in the wreckage for over 3 hours.   Grandpa said, (and I have this on tape) ” I can still see that man…had a damn rod as thick as my arm over his arm…he was laying there, couldn’t move. Both engines were lying in the ditch. then the doctor hollered,” Does anybody got some whiskey??? Come on, get some! If you got nothing, get some! We’ve got to have whiskey for this guy.” they poured the whole pint in him. He was suffering….It was 35 to 40 below. You don’t ever forget those things…”

Here are a couple of pictures of that train wreck:


Second story

You may have heard this one before too,  that can happen around here.  😉

Back in 2011 I  stumbled across the poetry of Elsie Strawn Armstrong on-line. She was a pioneer mother who lived from 1789 to 1891.  She wrote a series  poems called “Sketches Of My Life.”  One of the most powerful accounts happened in 1831.  They lose their provision of salt, which in that time apparently was a life and death situation. ( I know it had to do with food preservation for the coming year, but not sure how that all works…)

“Our salt was in a gum,

And was standing on the loft,

But met with a bad accident,

when the cover got shoved off.

I had some in a box,

That was standing down below,

Not enough to last till spring,

And we knew not where to go…

Elsie asks  a man who had been selling salt if he had more to sell?  He didn’t, and didn’t know when more would be in.  He said...”If I go for salt, I’ll freeze to death, and perish in the snow.” 

She goes home,  and tells her children the situation.

When I got home, I told my children

What the man had said,

Then William said, I’ll go myself,

And take that big old sled.

“Mother do not be uneasy,

None but lazy people freeze,

Because they will not exercise,

They are so fond of ease.

There is no fear for me Mother,

I will jump and kick the sled,

I will keep myself in exercise

Run, and kick the wagon bed….

Their team was good and active,

All four year olds and strong….

The account goes on…

Fifteen year old Will and his little brother take off on a 90 mile trek in the dead of winter with their team. They have to cross a frozen river, deal with winter storms, not get lost, be on guard for  roving Indians, (all while mom is at home second guessing herself, with the rest of her brood).


This week, just to make sure I was on my game  because the weather man said we were in for it, we were going to get a “Polar vortex”,what ever the heck that was, I decided to add a third story to my winter attitude folder.

I decided to reread a portion of  novel The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

It was perfect!

It was just what the Dr ordered!



I am torn.

Torn because I love winter.

I love winter storms.

I love being snowed in.

I love busting through drifts with my 4 wheel drive pick up.

Last thing I want to do is mock someone to whom the winter storms are a heartache.  (My parents are in their 80’s and I know it can be hard on both of them).   The thing is, from my vantage point, all of the negative, naysayers are the only voices I hear.  Fellow lovers of winter weather  seem to be either a dying breed or keeping their thoughts to themselves.


I grew up on a farm.

On the farm, when you have livestock, you don’t get to stay in the house when it gets cold.  Sometimes just the opposite.  Those are the times when stuff starts to break. Water lines to the cattle get frozen or the pilot light to the tank heater won’t stay lit, etc. etc. Christmas morning if you have milk cows (like we did)  the cows still need milking, haying,  might even have more manure to pitch than normal if you keep the cows in the barn overnight so they don’t freeze their utters off. 🙂

So here I am now in the year 2019.

All of our children are grown.  No longer have cows to milk, tank heaters to keep lit. none of it.

Predictions of winter storms stir up within me feelings of thankfulness.   I feel like some little creature tucked away deep in my burrow,  Cozy.  My larder is full.  The house is staying warm. Smell of freshly baking bread is in the air. Garden seeds have started coming in the mail.  The new little heating pad that goes under the seed starting tray is working like a charm.

I  feel better.   Now you know.

I got into a conversation yesterday with a young mom  about this past weeks weather.  She asked me what I thought about it.  I paused, looked her in the eyes and told her the same things I’ve just told you here.

She smiled and said, “I feel the same way.”


Here’s a picture I took earlier in the week in front of our house:

Got to run.  Need  to go to the bank before they close.   Take care. DM


16 thoughts on “Winter Sketches

  1. I love winter. I don’t mind deep snow, or even the occasional polar vortex. It does make tending the chickens a little harder–and now I’m really worried about the bees. We’ll have to wait for spring to know for sure. But we built the house snug and sturdy. We also built it to do without power, if need be. The wood crib is full, and I grew up with a pantry mentality. This time around we didn’t need to light any oil lamps, but we have them, just in case.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Speaking of bees…i went out the other day and put an additional 2 inches of insulation board on 3 sides of my one hive…making sure not to cover any vent holes…I did see little mouse tracks in the freshly fallen snow under the hive. I don’t think they got in, although it did look like something had been chewing on the reducer…didn’t want to pop open the hive in 25 below zero temps..@ this point if there is a mouse in there, he’s happy, and the damage has been done…does that make sense?


      • Well you cannot open the hive in this weather. As soon as it warms up–take a look. and you can put a mouseguard on now–though that could lock one in. When it warms–the bees will take care of it. You may need to cut away areas of foundation that the mouse damaged–sometimes bees will reject an area if a mouse has messed with it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. We’re at about four feet of snow now – and down into the deep freeze. Tonight -33C/-27F, by morning -49C/-56F.
    I grew up in winter temps like that (used to walk a trap line in those days)…I think it’s a mindset. If you’re prepared it doesn’t seem too big a deal.
    Today hubby threw on the snowshoes and checked the fence line – sometimes moose plow through and break it.
    The cows don’t go far….just stand in a sunny spot and contemplate. 😊

    Liked by 3 people

    • Val, I think you nailed it…I haven’t been able to put into words what you just did..” I grew up in winter temps like that (used to walk a trap line in those days)…I think it’s a mindset. If you’re prepared it doesn’t seem too big a deal.”

      Liked by 1 person

    • I have tried to look into this myself, (more than once) That would be exiting to me if you can uncover more information. That’s one of the things I love about history…not the stuff in school books, but old letters, old, documents, things that have not be edited and tweaked. Sometimes there are little clues scattered about for the person who knows what to look for. Keep me posted! thanks. DM

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember the “turtle up” train story. ; -) The other two were new to me. It seems such a shame we have become so disconnected from the natural world. My sister moved to Rochester, MN almost 20 years ago and had a difficult time with the winters at first. But now she just loves the winter weather. Interesting what we can get used to. Meanwhile, here in VA, it was 9 degrees last week and nearly 70 today!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.