The Long Winter and Ours, Compared

Stories from Curtis

As I write this, just a few days before the end of February at 1 p.m., the sun is shining and it’s a balmy twenty-four degrees. I hope by the time you read this, the snow is mostly gone, and this February is just a memory for the record books.

The first winter like this we remember.

Our family has lived in The Basin since 1985 and we can’t remember a February with this much winter or even close since we’ve been here. As I was thinking about it and how odd it is compared to our normal, balmy February, I was reminded of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book The Long Winter.

If you haven’t read her books, hurry up and go grab them from the library and get reading. Start with The Long Winter as it may help to have some perspective on what a winter really is.

The Long Winter took place in 1880-1881 in the Dakota Territory.

The first blizzard hit in October, with the trains soon shutting down and not running again until May. Blizzard after blizzard hit and with no trains running, the coal that the town of De Smet relied on for fuel was soon exhausted. Food became very scarce. Some families had only turnips to eat, while the Ingalls relied on ground wheat that they ground via their coffee grinder and baked into loaves of bread.

For fuel, they twisted grass hay into knots and fed the fire. Their only entertainment was grinding wheat and twisting hay.

An interesting side note on Laura’s books is that they are considered historical fiction, but while they are based on facts they aren’t all factual. For example, during that winter the Ingalls had a newly married couple living with them.

Laura wrote in her diary that the man would sit all day in his rocking chair, not lifting a hand to help with the fire or the wheat. In her book, no mention is made of the couple. The speculation is that she despised him too much to include him in her story.

One time it snowed and drifted around their house so much that Pa was able to tunnel out to the barn to take care of the animals. It also provided enough insulation that the house warmed up for the first time in months. Of all her books, I always liked this one the least, as it pretty much sums up my two greatest fears: being without food and incredible, desperate boredom!

Maybe a little snow can help us think deeply.

However, as our mini long winter month has stretched on and on it has given me some needed perspective! The one day we were stuck at our house doesn’t seem so bad upon reflection!

On a positive note, we wanted to send out a thank you to all of you who have helped keep roads open and pull out your neighbors! Our crew has enjoyed helping keep some of Benton County’s properties open, along with the Ferguson warehouse, the local Toyota dealer and others. We even got to pull out a stuck Sheriff!

It’s been fun to see the community working together, not sitting around waiting on or complaining about an overwhelmed County, but in true rural spirit, jumping in and doing what they can.

That, my friends, is what makes it so great to be a part of this community!

Author Info

Curtis Wray
CEO, C&E Trenching LLC

Digging dirt since 1994.

And we don't plan to stop anytime soon.

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