I sit here crippled and having Dawn put bales out for cows. Snow is blowing by the windows on this first anniversary of that day last year when we saw 63 tornadoes in Iowa; December 15th. I don’t usually ring the bell on a Wednesday but it was 70 degrees and a fine day for digging out change for the Salvation Army. All the talk was about when “it” was going to get here, meaning the nasty cold front. Eyes were on the sky and the radar on our phones.
I travel east to get home so I figured I could simply race it home once I got far enough north. As I passed the John Deere store I heard this weird sound that turned out to be a tornado siren. That added some drama. I doubted a deputy would pull me over for speeding.
As I pulled into the garage my sister, my step-mom, and Melba all called and told me to go to the basement. Dawn was camped out down there with Doris (our blue heeler). We sat and waited. At one point Doris yipped and we later guessed that was when neighbor Paul’s house lost its front half. Paul’s dad, Carl figured the deck flipped up and prevented the rest of the house from blowing away. Another neighbor lost hog houses, a modern shop, and a machine shed. Their house was mostly spared.
Another “extreme weather event” happened back at the end of January 1982. I remember the date as when the 49ers beat the Bengals in the Super Bowl. It was our first winter on the farm.
Dad called and said he could stop in Des Moines on his way to New York on business. The old SAAB wagon was bucking drifts already as we turned east on the last leg home from the airport. The oldest house in Ingham Township had a concrete block chimney on the north outside wall. It was the coldest chimney in the world and subject to the wind as it came down from its trip over the corn crib. Every time we opened the lid, wood smoke poured into the house. Cold chimneys don’t draw. A load of wood lasted all weekend.
So we put a blanket across the kitchen door and lived in there. The temperature didn’t make it above zero and the wind stayed 40 miles per hour for three days. The trusty old Majestic cookstove worked fine but took smaller wood. But tending a fire is fun.
Meanwhile the pigs huddled up and we kept them draft-free enough that they didn’t pile and smother each other. The two water tanks had 15 gallon barrels wired down into them where I kept fires going. I dug tunnels for the pigs to get through the drifts to their water.
We had two calves that we had purchased from our neighbor, Kenny. They were doing alright until the wind changed direction and picked up all the snow that had found its place. I thought they would freeze so I tried to get them up a ramp and into the barn. Cattle are cautious. I gave up and brought the chainsaw into the house so I could pull the starter rope. I started the saw in the kitchen and Dad and I ventured out to cut a hole in the lean-to where there was no ramp. I wanted each step to count.
Drifts blocked the road south of the farm and north of it. We made it through that weekend just fine and it provided Dad with a story he never got tired of telling.