This article appeared in the January/February 199 J issue of
On The Tractor Seat, official publication of Branch 30 EDGE&TA,
and was submitted by Carl Berman, Editor.
Snow has long brought major changes to rural life. Many farm
activities were curtailed by the layer of white; the schedule of
the year was frantically nearing completion when the first snows of
winter would fall. If there were enough snow and wind, the roads
would drift shut and travel would be impossible.
The date of the first snowfall would invite endless hours of
speculation at the tavern. Would it be a late winter or early,
heavy snowfall or light? Each patron had a favorite sign: the hair
on wooly caterpillars, the length of fur on horses, Aunt
Winnie’s trick knee. They would discuss the weather by the
hour, and when it did snow, each would point out how close he had
After the first snowfall the topic would change. Each snowfall,
no matter how much hit the ground, would be compared to the winter
of ?? There was never as much or as little snowfall as whatever
winter each had remembered the most. The last snowfall of the year
was given as much speculation as the first. Talk about how late and
how much would fill the hours, while snow fell outside.
If it was an early snow, the ground may not have had a chance to
freeze. A tractor would get stuck very easily in this mixture of
mud and snow. If the ground then stayed snow-covered all winter, it
could mean that there would be a shallow freeze and that some bug
larvae would not be killed. A late snow or no snow at all could
cause the ground to freeze deep. This could break water pipes and
kill trees. If a snowfall came early while the corn was being
harvested, the corn would be wet and mold in the crib.
Kids would wait eagerly for the first snowfall of the year and
be surprised by the last late spring dusting. Snow meant we could
play fox and geese or build snow forts and have snowball fights.
Packed snow made a great sled run and a scoop shovel tied behind
the pickup with a long rope was more fun than you could stand. A
heavy snow closed schools and give us a whole day to play in the
Tractors, especially diesels, became difficult to start. We
would drain the water and oil and bring them into the house to sit
near the stove. The warm water and oil would be poured into the
tractor which would then be easier to start. Each fall, we would
put a Heat-Houser on one or two tractors. This was a canvas screen
that mounted on the sides of the tractor and a plastic windshield
in front of the driver. The canvas directed a little bit of engine
heat and kept the wind down. Being canvas and plastic, the
Heat-Houser lasted only a year or two before it ripped out, but it
was better than nothing.
It always seemed that the nastiest snowfall of the year would
coincide with someone’s getting sick. One year we had to take
my brother to the doctor during the worst snowfall of the year. The
phone lines were down, but we thought the main road would be
plowed. We left the house in the truck, thinking that it would be
able to push through the drifts. This was not to be the case. The
roads were covered by 6 ft. drifts and were impassable.
We went back to the farm and started the Minneapolis Moline U.
The tractor was hooked to the pickup by a log chain and away we
went. The back way out of the farm ran along a ridge and would be
blown clear of snow. The only problems were a creek and a few small
drifts. The tractor was left alongside the main road.
That night, we stayed at my grandmother’s house and returned
home the next morning.