Putting on the Big Boots

When life gives you wind, blow with it

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For two days the north wind has howled through the trees and rammed into windows here in southwest Iowa. Fifty-five miles per hour gales put us in a wind advisory area more times than I care to remember. I have asked locals if we are having more wind than usual. They say yes, there is more wind, a lot more than normal.

If you ask people what memories they have of wind, unfortunately, most involve destruction and loss.

My brother Delmer remembers a year when the weather challenged even the toughest farmers. It started out as a normal year. Winter snows left moisture in the earth with promise of spring growth and hopes for a good crop. When the oak leaves were the size of a squirrel’s ear, Dad said it was time to plant, so he attached the four-row planter to the John Deere 520 and headed to the 40-acre field south of the house. He wire-checked corn back then, so every time he reached the fence row he climbed down and moved the knotted wire that stretched the length of the field. Yellow wheels turned, and the wire knots clicked as the planter dropped four golden kernels in the precise spot in each row. It was tedious work, but our father and his sons took great pride in their checked rows that would allow cultivating in any direction.

In less than a week, tiny green shoots pushed through the warm soil, and pointy ribbons of green stood in formation as they reached for the South Dakota sun. But some years Mother Nature moves in and wrenches our hopes away. One May night temperatures fell far below freezing. The next day, bright green corn seedlings morphed to dull brown and bent sadly to the soil in the morning sun.

“Some of it will grow back,” Dad said, as we drove by the field, “if we get some rain.” Rainfall was far below normal that year. Hopeful white roots reached down, desperately searching for moisture that was not there. Leaves could not grow without water. The plants waited while the black earth that nurtured them baked to light gray and mutated to a flimsy dust.

One June morning, a gust of wind fluttered the weakened leaves. Another stronger rush followed. Soon savage gales of 50 miles per hour clawed at the soil. As happened in the drought of the Dirty Thirties, it picked up the dry dust and hurled it into the air. Sharp as a razor, the whirling particles pelted the corn plants and cut them to the ground.

That evening, Dad, Don and Delmer took the pickup for a drive around the section. They surveyed the wind’s devastation in their precious corn fields. Hill tops and northern exposures lay stripped, as bare as if nothing had been planted there. Hardly ten plants survived the wicked teeth of the dust-laden tempest. Sparse green plants held on in the low-lying areas and on the southern hillsides.

We ended up cutting the corn for silage that year. Dad took the opportunity to point out why it was important to raise other crops as well as livestock.

“You don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” With the eternal hope of a farmer he added, “Next year will be better. Maybe it will be a normal year.”

Though spring 2022 has barely settled in, many in our country have already experienced the wind’s horrible destruction. Though they will always remember the devastation and loss, we pray for them that they will have the strength to go on.

And the hope that next year will be better…

Kruempel’s newest book, Once Upon a Midwest Sunset, as well as her 5-book series, Promises to Keep, are available on Amazon.com. Once Upon a Midwest Sunset (an excellent gift of memories) is a compilation of the stories from her NOOKS AND CRANNIES column, which was published in five newspapers in 2020-21. Contact her at deannkruempelauthor@gmail.com

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