By SHIRLEY HEIMBUCK GOEHRING Star-Herald Reader
The blizzard hit with sudden fury Sunday afternoon. Mom and I had just come home from attending my cousin’s bridal shower. The Christmas holidays were ending and school was to start the next day. Monday morning all roads were closed…no school…hooray!!!!
Monday morning Dad went to our neighbor’s farm to help bring in extra feed for the sheep kept in the cattle pens. At noon, the men returned to our house for lunch. Dad took extra clothes and warned us not to worry if he spent the night helping to disperse the sheep to keep them from piling up and suffocating. Several other town men also found themselves stranded at the Hoff farm and helping herd the sheep.
Every morning and evening, Mom and I dressed in layers of warm winter clothes, complete with face masks to protect us from frostbite from the freezing cold. We had tied ropes between the house and the barn to guide us around the snowdrifts and help us find our way without getting lost in the blinding snow.
The chickens were warm in the henhouse completely buried in snow. The snow had swirled miraculously leaving the door of the blow free of snow. After feeding the hens and collecting the eggs kept warm under the hens, we rushed to the barn to milk the cows. We made it home quickly before the steaming hot milk and fresh eggs had a chance to freeze. We had to return to the barn in the late afternoon to milk the cows again. Our face masks were frozen with ice. We looked like creatures in a horror movie.
People also read…
We didn’t have a television then…only a radio. News of the storm broke, telling us where people were stranded, needing medical help, and running out of food and fuel to heat homes. Many people found themselves stranded along the highways. A Greyhound bus loaded with 50 stranded travelers was housed and fed for several days by a farming family living along the highway. Farming families canned food from their gardens to make them last through the dangerous winters. This food was available in such an emergency. We listened intently day and night, grateful for our warm home and an abundance of food that included fresh milk and eggs.
To save the coal-oil used for heating our house, we closed the whole house and heated only two rooms. The temperature in the rooms was like stepping into a frozen igloo. We didn’t have the luxury of electric blankets, so we warmed the flannel sheets with a rubber hot water bottle before jumping under a mountain of warm homemade wool duvets. The upstairs bedrooms were so cold my doll’s face was cracking. She was a very special doll, my last doll, which I received from my parents on my 10th Christmas. When I was in my 50s, I restored the doll to its original condition. I still have this doll at 85 years old.
The storm raged for several days. One evening we heard a tractor. Pa and several men had made their way through the snow-covered fields. Our phone lines were down and they wanted to make sure we were safe. After gulping down hot coffee and enjoying mom’s homemade coffee cake, they were on their way back to the Hoff farm to pick up the herd of sheep.
Finally, the snow and the wind stopped. The snowdrifts, ten feet high, shone like diamonds. Huge snowdrifts were piled everywhere, blocking roads and driveways leading to homes. Mom and I worked most of the day shoveling the paths to the cattle barn. We also shoveled snow from the driveway and the bridge that led to the road. We struggled with the heavy snow chains as we attached them to our old truck.
Dressed in our warmest clothes, Mom and I piled my younger sisters and brother into the truck and bounced through the fields weaving around the huge snowdrifts strewn across the fields. We arrived at the Hoff farm two miles away. MISSION…Bring dad home.
We have never been afraid of running out of food. Every day we had a fresh supply of milk and eggs. The root cellar was well stocked with canned fruits and vegetables from the summer garden. If we needed meat, we could butcher a chicken for a delicious meal of chicken and dumplings. Every fall mom and dad would buy 100 books. of sugar and flour that was stored in the upstairs bedroom.
When the blizzard subsided, there was a lot of snow to clear. Our reward was an extra week of Christmas vacation. Many roads have been closed for weeks. School buses bounced around the galleries, creating new routes through the frozen fields. It was one of the most exciting experiences of my life. I remember it like it was yesterday.
EDITOR’S NOTE: If you lived through the 1949 Blizzard and would like to share your experience, we would welcome it. We may not be able to print them all, but we welcome them. Please keep them around 800-900 words or less. Email them to [email protected] or mail them to Star-Herald, PO Box 1709, Scottsbluff, NE 69362-1709.