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Ooh, was that spring weather? (02/21/2007)
By Frances Edstrom

All it takes is one day of 40-degree weather, and I'm thinking spring. I even went so far as to peek at the flower beds closest to the house, where the earliest blooms come up. Nothing yet, and a good thing, since we know that in Minnesota on February 21, there is a lot of winter left. A lot. In fact some of our most spectacular snowstorms come in March, just in time for the state boy's basketball tournament, if I remember correctly, and even April is not safe.

If you've ever been camping (as opposed to RVing), you know the feeling you get of camaraderie with other campers who up until that camping trip were perfect strangers. There you are, and it's the hairless, tender-skinned human against everything that nature can throw at you " bugs, sun, water, wind, stinging nettles, no tidy flush toilets, and a woods full of scary animals you can't see.

That's about as close as most of us get to "living on the edge" until a tornado, straight-line winds, a flood or a blizzard comes along, as if to say, "Okay, you runty little soft-bellied human, deal with this." And when you deal with it successfully, thanks to the fact that human ingenuity has developed such things as chain saws, dikes, and snowblowers, you can thumb your nose at Mother Nature " at the same time as you say a prayer of thanks.

Some of my best and worst memories are of the various snowstorms and blizzards we've had while raising our family in Winona. In 1971-72, we started a business, had our first child, and bought a house. We gave up our carefree life in a rented old farmhouse at Silo, northwest of Lewiston, when we found we couldn't get out of the driveway to get to work after a snow.

Our first Christmas in the new house, I looked out the front window during a raging snowstorm, and coming up the walk was Joe Krier, from the brand-new Town and Country State Bank, the only bank in town willing to take on the risk of offering us a mortgage. Joe brought us a gift, thanking us for our business, when in truth we should have given him a gift for taking a flyer on us. But actually, the gift was well-received, and immediately re-gifted, as we didn't have the bucks to buy presents for our families.

In addition to a new house that Christmas, we had to purchase a pick-up truck to haul the papers from the printer to Winona. It was an orange and white Jeep, with four-wheel drive, a new thing to us. Shortly after buying it, an enormous snow began to fall, so fast and deep the front steps soon looked like the slide at the park. When it stopped, around nine at night, we bundled up the baby, cranked the lockout hub caps, got in the truck, shifted into four-wheel and careened through the still virgin snow of the side streets in Winona's west end. We hadn't had that much fun for a long, long time. The baby slept through the whole adventure.

Similar storms and the relegation of the Jeep to solely business use, leaving us four-wheel driveless, was the determining factor in our short-lived attempt at returning to country living. In a big storm, one of us had to stay at home with the kids (now two) while the other hiked out to the main road to catch a ride from a coworker.

On one such day, I hiked out, leaving John with the kids until the township plow came in and he would be able to drive out. Cassidy was a kindergartner, so we had been listening for school closings, but nothing had come through. John bundled her up and sent her trudging down the driveway toward the bus stop. Just when she was effectively out of earshot, the radio announcer said that Winona schools would be closed. John, holding the crying baby, ran to the door to try to tell Cassidy to turn around and come home. Snow blowing furiously around her, she interpreted his shouts as exhortations to go faster to get to the bus. Finally, he had to bundle up the baby, pull on his boots, and go after her. (I have a mental picture that is very reminiscent of an old melodrama, but with a feminist twist.) Her relief was great.

We looked for a house in town again shortly after that. If only we'd had computers, perhaps we could have worked from home, but all we had was a telephone, paper files, and a car that couldn't get us to them.

But, you know, even if this mild, relatively snowless winter won't create lasting memories, I'm okay with that. 


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