October 9, 2013



We’ve had about as nice a fall as you could hope for. Mild temperatures, abundant moisture, but dry enough to wrap up haying and small grain harvest. Warm days and cool nights, with only a night or two of light frost.
But just to the south of us, they really got hammered this past week with a ripper of a blizzard. Reports are just starting to surface of the livestock losses many producers suffered. You take four feet of wet snow, along with 60 mph winds, it can be catastrophic. I’ve seen pictures of some of the cattle that blew into corners and drifted under or were trampled. Tragic. We try to be prepared for storms in the winter. But in early October?
I don’t know if there is anything more disorienting than a blizzard. Maybe a heavy fog. If you’ve been caught in either, whether you are horseback, afoot, or in a vehicle, you know what I mean. You don’t know whether you are going uphill or downhill. You don’t have any idea how far you have traveled. You lose your sense of time.
When I was younger (I’m still young) I lived at Berthold, N.D. It’s in the prairie pothole region in the northern part of the state. No trees or buttes to act as landmarks. It’s the kind of country where homesteaders would run a rope or wire from the house to the barn, so in case of a storm, they could find their way to the barn to feed the milk cow and saddle horse.
 Anyway, Gary was working for us, I suppose we were in our mid-teens. A fall storm was forecast and Grandpa, Dad, Gary, and I saddled up to gather cows and bring them into the yard. The snow hit earlier than expected and Gary got lost in the heavy snow. We didn’t know if we had lost him, or if he had lost us, until we reached the yard with the cows.
It was getting a little nastier, but Grandpa went out to find Gary. I headed for the house because my toes were cold.
He found Gary about a half mile from the yard. He felt a sense of relief because he knew he was getting closer to home, even before Herb found him. He explained to Herb he was never in trouble. He was following the trail home. He had come across a horse track and figured it was headed in the right direction. Then he could see there was more than one so he knew he was following us home. Then there were three or four guys and he was certain he was following the search party that was looking for him, or the cows.
He felt a little foolish when Herb showed him he was just riding around a hill following his own tracks!
Be careful out there! And I dang sure hope your cows are alright!