1996: An awful good winter

Winters in Southwest Minnesota have a way of escalating cabin fever. Sure, school would get cancelled and my siblings and I would all rejoice singing, “Schools out for winter!” even though that’s not how the song is written.

The winter of 1996 is one that I will never forget. It inched along in a never ending sea of white flakes that covered the farm completely. In fact, it not only covered the farm, it snowed so much that my dad had to crawl out of the second story window in order to dig us out of the house.

Instead of wasting away in a house submerged by snow, my siblings and I played card games. Every day I would crawl out of bed, still wearing the same layers of clothing as the days before and join my siblings around the kitchen table.

“Alright, whose turn is it to deal?” My older brother would ask hoping to trick one of his younger siblings into breaking out of their cocoons of warm blankets. We all looked at each other hesitant to remove our hands from safe place of heat close to our bodies. The power was out again and the temperature was no doubt somewhere below zero. If you move, you risk your body heat vanishing into thin air.

Finally, my younger sister said, “I’ll do it even though I know it isn’t my turn.” I watch as she slowly removed her hands from the inside of her blanket cocoon. Her mitten covered hands emerged; she slowly removed the wool mittens to reveal another pair of gloves that were covering her soon to be frozen fingers. In a Minnesota winter, one pair of hand coverings is just not enough. Her hands shivered and began to shake as she began handing out the cards.

And there we sat, day in and day out. When the electricity would flicker on we could get a few hours of warmth from the electric heater and maybe watch a movie. During those times, we would switch to the more physical game of spoons. But, once the heater shut off and the electricity was gone, we would all retreat back to our cocoons for warmth, back into our little huddle like homeless people searching for warmth around a garbage tin of fire.

My husband always asks me how I got so good at playing card games and yet there isn’t a competitive bone in my body. My only answer is, “Well honey, after thousands of card games during the winter of 1996, I learned how to be good. Back then, games weren’t about winning or losing. They were about spending time with family, making memories, and in some cases surviving in a situation when you could easily lose your mind in a sea of snow.”

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The Case of the Rolling Bull

I found this little gem from my college years. It was written sometime before May 2005.

Our families cows breaking out of their “fenced in roaming area” is nothing new. I remember such experiences as a child when death felt near. It is those times when your heart beats fast and panic sets in, then your mind and body come together in that short instance that saves your life.

My family had just gotten home from vacation. We notice many footprints on our lawn. These were not any ordinary footprints but they certainly were familiar to my family. They were the kind of footprints that we all dreaded to see. They were cow footprints. My whole family was so tired and did not want to deal with the cows wondering all over our lawn. Dad took it upon himself and said that he would go out and see what’s going on while the rest of us unloaded from the trip. We were all laughing and reminiscing about the trip when we all turned to see my dad running towards us. It turns out that my neighbor’s cows had gotten into the very same pen with our cows and we would have to separate them. This is a HUGE job. My sister, mom, dad and I went and put our clothes on and got ready to go.

When I had finished getting changed I went down the hill to where the cows were. Naturally, the two bulls had found each other. I made my sister round up the herd while I stayed up by the house. My life all of the sudden became slow motion. The two bulls were coming towards me in a not so orderly way. Rolling, rolling towards me. I looked around for somewhere to hide, but unfortunately this was the open plain of the Midwest. There were no trees or anything to hide from two fighting, 2,000 Pd bulls. I screamed and looked at my sister. To my shock she was laughing hysterically at me. I did not think that this near death experience was very humorous at all.

I looked back at the bulls. The neighbor’s bull was running towards me looking for protection because our bull was winning the fight. This only worsened my situation. Finally, I did what I had to do; the only thing there was to do. I ran. I out ran them. After all I was only 140 pounds and they weighed only about 1,860 more.

Well, that’s what I remember. During the rest of the day I had two more near death experiences. If you would like to know “the rest of the story” just ask. It is quite amusing.

The Day Before

It was the day before my wedding. Everything was looking bright and sunny. However, there was rain in the forecast which was casting a shadow on my outdoor garden wedding but I tried not to let that bother me. We had a girl’s day planned the day before and it was going to be a glorious day! We were headed to Marshall to get our nails done and have lunch together. We left the boys home to finish setting up the tents and chairs. My mom left them a list of things that needed to get done while we were getting pampered.

I’m not entirely sure how the whole idea morphed into what it became. Our first mistake was leaving the men alone. My sisters in laws were both in my wedding so that left the boys to play without supervision. I assume the idea started with an individual finding a long piece of landscaping plastic that was left over from the preparations of my wedding at my parent’s house. After that, it all went downhill… literally….

The ladies and I had a wonderful day. We got manicures and pedicures and went out for a delicious lunch. We were excited to come home to see all the work the guys had done but we were greeted with something else entirely. As we drove down the driveway I could see my oldest brother (I say oldest because I have 2) standing at the top of a large mound of dirt that was left from digging the pit where my parents burn their garbage. I remember “what the…” coming out of my mouth. He was facing away from us wearing nothing but a pair of shorts. He slowly turned and looked at us sitting in the vehicle. Straight faced, he slowly turned back around… and then FLUNG himself off the mound of dirt hands first!

After that, all the women started talking at the same time, “What was that?” “What have they been doing?” “They better have finished their list!” Upon further inspection and a walk down to where I saw my brother throw himself off the mound of dirt, I saw what they were doing. All the men, including my future beloved, were soaking wet. They had a garden hose hooked up to the barn and were spraying the landscaping plastic with ice cold water. They had made a slip n slide the day before my wedding.

My mom had organized everything down perfectly so there was a little bit of time to kill before the rehearsal started. Time to kill + Family from across the US gathering + 1 Texan+ God given creativity = DANGEROUS! My husband’s friend from Texas that flew up for the wedding suggested that we move the slip n slide to the sledding hill and proceeded to go into town to buy 100 foot landscaping tarp. And so they did… and yes, this is how I spent the day before my wedding. I did not go down the slip n slide for fear of injury but many did and I think it is now a family activity that will be passed on to the generations!

This last summer my nephew who is 4 years old continued the tradition.