The Farm Years Part 1: Minnesota Snow

According to reports from the folks back home, southwest Minnesota is getting the kind of snow it had back in 81-82 and 82-83, what I fondly refer to as “The Farm Years.” 

When we were engaged during the 81-82 winter, I’d go out to my fiancé’s family farm before a blizzard hit because I didn’t want to be snowed in for three days with my grandmother and her canasta buddies in the old folks apartment complex, even though she did keep a stash of Southern Comfort in the vegetable crisper. I loved my grandma and was grateful she let me live with her until I got married, but you can bet I took every opportunity I could to avoid being cooped up watching the Lawrence Welk Show and living amongst the stifling smell of Skin So Soft wafting off the bodies of Grandma and her friends.

Blizzards were fun. While Bruce’s parents stayed on the main floor, Bruce and I took over the upstairs. We put together jigsaw puzzles, played Rook and backgammon, watched The Muppet Show and Dynasty, drank Seagram’s and 7-Up, listened to music, and had a lot of sex after his parents went to bed. It could have snowed for weeks on end and we could have cared less.

We were married in April 1982 and in June I became pregnant with Carlene, making her due in March, prime blizzard month in Minnesota. We had moved to the farm in October when his parents retired to town and the snow started in November. One after another the storms came through, dumping two, five, 10 inches of snow at a time, and on that part of the prairie, the wind starts somewhere in the middle of South Dakota and doesn’t stop until Wisconsin.

I had a complicated pregnancy and so my family doctor, Doc Strand, referred me to a specialist in Sioux Falls, 40 miles away. That was all good and fine when the roads were clear, but it wasn’t going to do me a lick of good during a blizzard. Even the nearest hospital 11 miles away would prove as futile to get to as Sioux Falls when the snow fell and the wind blew. So good old Doc Strand came up with a plan. If I went into labor during a snowstorm and if Bruce could get me to town, he’d do his best to deliver our baby in his office.

That offered me a little comfort, but I knew the only way I was going to get to town, or at least to the end of our half-mile driveway, was in a tractor. At least we had one with an enclosed cab, but getting into one when your nine months pregnant is no easy feat.

I worried non-stop the last few weeks of my pregnancy. Gone were the days and nights of blizzard bliss. Each night before going to bed, I’d look out the front door window and if I could see the neighbor’s yard light a three-quarters mile away, I knew the snow and wind weren’t too bad and I could make it to town if I went into labor. If I couldn’t, I spent most of the night curled up in a ball in a chair reading, trying to keep my mind off the weather.

The weather forecast looked pretty good the week before Carlene’s due date, and so I decided to do everything I could to go into labor.

Dozens of empty 50-pound feed pellet bags had piled up in the silo room, so one day I hauled them to the burn barrel and burned every last one of them. It took hours. I was exhausted. That night in bed, my uterus cramped up like a Charlie horse. Ah ha, I thought, I’ll be in labor by morning. No such luck. The only thing my back breaking labor gave me was false labor.

I moved on to Plan B – sex. That didn’t work. Plan C – driving on the washboard country roads for an hour. Zip. I was so frustrated. I had a doctor’s appointment on my due date, the day before another snowstorm was forecast, so I decided I’d ask my doctor what else I could do to get this kid out before I worried myself to death.

Before I could ask the question, the doctor decided Carlene had been in there long enough and that come hell or high water (or blizzard as was the case), she was going to be born the next day. And she was, with a little help from some pitocin (the most godawful drug ever invented, but that’s a totally different blog for another day).

The snow came and went several more times that winter, but I no longer went to the front door window to check the status of the neighbor’s yard light. I wasn’t sleeping much, but for a much better reason.

The Farm Years were two of my best and worst years. I’ll be blogging more about them this month as 1.) Carlene’s birthday approaches, 2.) what would be my husband’s 48th birthday approaches, 3.) the anniversary of his death approaches, and 4.) the date of what would have been our 25th wedding anniversary approaches. Wow, something to look forward to, right? Bet you can’t wait. But I promise I won’t make you want to slit your wrists or poke your eyes out with a pencil. Cry a little, maybe, but not do yourself bodily harm.

Stay safe if you’re encountering bad weather these days, but remember to enjoy it, too. Read a little, drink a little, fool around a little. Make some good memories.

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