- Historic Sites
An astonishing saga of endurance and high courage told by a man who lived through it
February 1988 | Volume 39, Issue 1
We ate our lunch, which was about frozen, and wondered how Edna, my sister, was going to get home from school afoot.
We loaded up our car with seeds and some dried fruit that came in twenty-five-pound boxes—dried apples, raisins, prunes, and figs. We didn’t buy meat, for we had beef, goat, and jackrabbit. But we left behind a lot Mom had ordered. While at the store Dad looked out and said, “Look at that snow!” While Dad was looking at that snow, somehow my girl friend popped into my mind, I didn’t know why. We had gone to a Charlie Chaplin movie a couple of days before, but for some reason I kept thinking about her (later I found out why), but then I looked out and it was blowing so hard it looked like fog. By this time we had the car filled with gas, and bought two extra cans and had them filled, and that took about the last cent we had. The man charged us ten cents a gallon for the gas, and just the day before it was nine cents; but we had to have that gas, for we knew if the snow kept coming, it would soon start to drift.
We finally got started for home. We got along pretty good for about fifteen miles, to the little town of Granada, about five hundred people. We drove up to a filling station and stopped. A man came out and asked where we were headed. When we told him, he said, all excited, “They are having a man-killing blizzard where you are going. You better put some real heavy chains on that car or you are not going to get very far.” How right he was.
By that time it looked pretty bad and the snow had started to drift, so we put on truck-type chains. Now this was about 4:00 P.M. We filled up with gas once again and started on our way. We had about five miles to go to get out of the lowland and start up on the plateau country, while the storm was raging at 30 below zero and the wind had reached about seventy-five miles per hour, which made a chill factor of about 101 below.
As we got higher, the snow and drifting got worse. We had about eight miles to go from Granada to the small town of Hartman. We finally reached Hartman, about two-thirds of the way up to plateau country, which is miles and miles of flatland, no trees or rocks, no hills; only every four or five miles there would be a prairie dog town. We made our way east of Hartman about two miles. By this time it was 7:00 or 8:00 P.M., with snow-drifts four feet high and still coming.
It looked like hell on earth, and we kept thinking about what might be happening to the folks at home. We would have to run into each snowdrift, back up, and hit it six or seven times to get through, and just as we would get through one, here would be another. By this time we both were about exhausted.
You could stand out in that mist, throw your chest out, and say, “At last, winter is over.”
We just sat in the car and talked it over, motor running all the time, knowing if the motor died, we would also freeze to death, and all of a sudden I saw a faint light up ahead and to our right. I said to Dad, “Look, do you see that light?” By that time it had gone out, and a second later it appeared again. We thought it must be a farmhouse.
They are having a man-killing blizzard. You better put some real heavy chains on.”
We knew by now there was no way we could go much farther, so we inched ahead about a hundred feet, and there we were—right in front of a house! We left the engine running and locked arms with one another so as not to get lost if the light went out again.
The light would go off and on every second or two, because the storm was so intense; the snow was like talcum powder, driving right up our nostrils. We could hardly breathe. We had rags the size of big bandannas around our faces, pulled up close to our eyes, trying to keep our faces from freezing and at the same time trying to keep that awful fine snow from freezing our lungs. Walking in the wind was almost impossible.
It seemed like we would never reach that light, when all at once we stumbled and fell onto the porch of a house. We knocked on the door, and a man came and opened it. The first thing he said to us was, “Get yourselves in this house before you freeze to death!” We told him who we were and where we were trying to get to. “Well, you can’t go nowhere in this,” he said, and told his wife to get us some dry clothes and supper. So there we were for the night of March 28.
In the meantime, before we undressed, he put his fur coat and sheepskin mitts on and we all three went out and got our car off the road. As we stepped back on his porch, he looked at his thermometer, and it read thirty-one degrees below zero.
We stayed all night at this man’s house. Happened to be a dairy. Next morning we got up about four-thirty, the morning of the twenty-ninth, to help the good man feed and milk his cows, about thirty head. After breakfast, at 6:00 A.M., we looked out and no car could be seen. A drift had completely covered it up.