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Monday, 07 December 2009

Whispers of a Blizzard

By Ann Berger

Our driving mare, Lady, knew her way home as she had proven when Father courted Mother in 1915-1917. Father would drop Mother at her home after an evening out, tie the reins around the buggy whip holder to settle in for a nap and wake up in front of his own barn. The sweethearts married on September 19, 1917.

Into the 1920’s and several children later, Lady still knew her way home. Minnesota winter mornings when snow was too deep for us to wade through snow drifts for the three-quarter mile walk to school, Father would hitch Lady to the cutter, tuck us under cowhide robes and send us off with eldest sister Helen holding the reins.

At the schoolhouse door, we’d wriggle from under the robes and skitter into the schoolhouse stomping snow off our boots in the bell-tower entryway. Helen tied the reins around the whip holder, patted Lady and said, “Go home, Lady.”Lady went home.

Her horse sense could not be trusted to return to school to pick us up later in the day. Who knew where she might wander off in search of oats or four-footed play mates? When school dismissed, the west wind carried us homeward before dark.

Then came the one and only day we were allowed to skip school. A beastly blizzard threatened. I knelt between four-year-old Paul and seven-year-old Donna at an upstairs bedroom window taking in our very own fairyland. In my six-year-old wonderment, I mused, “Why do things look more real under snow?” They both nodded, not uncupping chins resting in their hands.

With elbows on the broad windowsill, our eyes scanned the blanketed lawn, barnyard, windmill and out buildings. Rows of evergreens making for a wind break in front of the grove of butternuts, oaks and maples now seemed closer under a shroud of undisturbed snow. Donna whispered, “See how close the windbreak looks now.”

Silently, Paul’s and my chins dipped in our hands.Looking. Discovering. Wondering. More silence.

Paul's tiny voice squeaked, “What’re those humps on top of the sheep barn?” We girls looked. We shrugged. Looked some more.

The storm door of the back porch banged with a winter thud. Father, with ear flaps pulled down and his brown wool cap covering his eyebrows, stepped into the snow. His boots made deep tracks to the cistern pump beside the back porch. He knotted a long rope to the crook of the pump handle.

We three turned worried eyes to each other, shivering with dread about our neighbor who froze to death in a blizzard trying to find his way from the corn crib to his house.

We watched Father lean into whirling ground squalls and stomp to the barn dragging that long rope across the lawn, across the barnyard to the hitching post outside the barn door. He looped the rope into a horseman’s knot and gave it an extra tug.

Donna whispered, “Now he won’t get lost.”

I nodded.

Paul bragged, “Bet Lady could find home.”

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Well, another wonderful addition to the best writing around...for a few moments I was one of those kids scrunched under the cowhide..city kids grow up knowing horses only thru reading & movies..at 68 years, those movies were westerns, of course,and those loyal horses of yesterday's heroes..nice way to start the day..thanks...Mary Follett

Delightful. My father started teaching at a 1-room schoolhouse on his 18th birthday, and he rode a horse to work--a buggy when rainy.

Ann - Nicely told story. A wonderful trip back to another time.

Horses never cease to amaze. When my nearly blind (from diabetes) grandmother was 82, she was swept off her 30-year-old Morgan stallion, Donlecto, by a low branch, while trail-riding alone. Her horse went to a nearby street, and stood in the middle of the road until a passer-by stopped. Donlecto then led him to my unconscious grandmother. - Sandy

We have all heard of 'horse sense' and you made it so real with your well written story. I could visualize every detail.

Thanks for a peek into yesteryear.

Enjoyable story…Horses are such wonderful creatures..

Wonderful story of a bygone era and so well written. I felt as if I was experiencing it also. Great work Ann!

Wonderful story, Aunt Ann. I can easily imagine the scene, especially as it approaches 0-degrees outside at my home right now.

The uncanny instincts of our beloved animals...
The blessings, beauty and brutality of nature...
and the ingenuity of man all wrapped in a nice vignette.

Warmest Regards, -Paul

What a great story for this day here as the first storm of the year blows through. Thank you.

Thank you once again Ann for taking us to a magical place in time with your story. Love you dear one.. Have A Blessed and joyous Christmas.


Great story Ann. It reminds me of Daisy, a horse my brothers and I rode while on vacation at a small lake in Wisconsin. No matter where we went on Daisy, she always knew the way back to the barn.

Whispers of a Blizzard is a delightful story and I hope it is to be continued. More please!

Ann, you amaze me with your talent for helping us
slip into your world on the farm. I've loved your stories since you handed me "In a Squirrel's Ear."
Keep Writing!

Barbara from St. Aidans

THANK YOU, Barbara, Carolyn, Daniel, Susan, Mage, Paul, Ruth, Claire Jean, Darlene, Sandy, Lyn and Mary for giving up your time to read "Whispers of a Blizzard." Now look what your encouragement has done. I just may come up with another story one day. Ann Berger

I am getting ready to print this off for Don & Lilas. I am the guy who played golf with you folks at Chewelah many years ago. They send their best to you, and are looking forward to taking this home and reading it.

Thank you, Dan, for reminding me of our enjoyable 18 holes on Chewelah -- a true mountaintop experience. Thanks, too for sharing my Elder Stories.

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