2019 JAN FEB DOWN COUNTRY ROADS MAGAZINE DCR Jan.Feb.2019 web - Page 26

Rancher/aviators like Richard Kulesza, right, flew countless volunteer missions during blizzards, dropping small parcels to rural residents who were cut off from town or not receiving rural mail delivery. In this photo, mail carrier Veryln Hack- ens, left, assists Kulesza with loading mail into his Cessna 140, a popular, new design for post World War II general avi- ation. Kulesza’s plane could carry about 500 lbs., including the pilot, one passenger, fuel and cargo. Cruise speed was 105 mph. [Photo­courtesy­of­Karen­Hackens­Madsen,­New­Underwood] pregnant.­To­the­rescue­flew­neighbor­Richard­Kulesza­in­his ski-equipped­Cessna­to­provide­a­chilly,­but­welcome,­airlift from­the­ranch­to­a­waiting­car­on­Highway­34­where­LeRoy Harwood­drove­the­expectant­mom­to­a­birthing­home­in­Stur- gis.­Just­in­time,­John­Bennett­was­born­the­next­morning. Pilots­like­Richard­were­solo­heroes­in­their­light­planes­that were­ used­ for­ all­ manner­ of­ rescue­ and­ delivery­ missions throughout­the­region.­­In­addition­to­expectant­mothers,­many volunteer­aviators­braved­wind­and­cold­to­ferry­sick­and­in- jured­patients­to­hospitals.­In­cooperation­with­postmasters­and shopkeepers,­they­worked­out­informal­delivery­routes­to­air- drop­mail­and­provisions­to­stranded­rural­families.­Parcels were­generally­lightweight,­but­in­keeping­with­personal­needs of­the­era,­often­included­critical­necessities­like­coffee­and­to- bacco. Military­aircraft­from­the­Air­Force­and­Air­National­Guard delivered­heavy­loads­of­supplies,­personnel­and­equipment­to communities­with­airfields.­Airmen­dropped­bulky­loads­of­hay and­feed­to­livestock­and­—­occasionally­—­wildlife.­On­reser- vations­where­residents­endured­life-threatening­conditions,­in one­mission­alone­to­the­village­of­Potato­Creek,­loadmasters in­a­C-47­pushed­three­cases­of­condensed­milk­and­40­50-lb. bags­of­flour­out­the­cargo­door­of­the­Air­Force’s­flying­work- horse. Despite­three­months­of­dangerous­winter­weather,­school snow­days­were­the­rare­exception­for­two­families­of­Harwood 26 DOWN COUNTRY ROADS kids­who­were­growing­up­on­central­Meade­County­ranches about­12­miles­south­of­Union­Center.­The­determination­of their­parents­and­the­energy­of­their­19-year-old­teacher­kept their­classroom­operating­—­with­a­few­changes.­No­snow­days for­these­first­cousins. Hope­School­served­five­pupils,­a­brother­and­sister­from Andy­and­Kathryn­Harwood’s­family­plus­two­boys­and­one girl­ belonging­ to­ Myron­ and­ Sophie­ Harwood­ who­ lived “across­the­breaks”­and­close­to­the­one-room­structure­that stood­ alone­ on­ Hay­ Draw­ Road.­ Their­ teacher­ was­ Fern Denker,­an­enthusiastic­1948­graduate­of­Sturgis­High­School who­ had­ just­ learned­ the­ fundamentals­ of­ grammar­ school teaching­during­summer­sessions­at­Black­Hills­State. For­Fern,­the­adventure­began­when­there­was­a­brief­break in­the­weather,­allowing­her­to­leave­her­family­home­—­on foot­ —­ for­ a­ four-mile,­ cross-country­ hike­ to­ Andy­ and Kathryn’s­place­where­she­was­a­weekday­boarder.­Monday, Jan.­3,­was­an­important­school­day,­the­first­after­the­custom- ary­Christmas­vacation.­Andy­optimistically­fired­up­his­Jeep for­the­ride­to­school,­a­strategy­that­failed.­Undaunted,­Andy loaded­a­sled­with­kids’­clothing.­He,­his­two­children­and­Fern set­off­for­Myron­and­Sophie’s­place,­a­three-mile­push­across the­breaks. The­quartet­arrived­safely­at­the­second­Harwood­home; Hope­School­was­still­one­mile­away.­Andy­walked­back­to­his house;­Fern­and­her­five­pupils­set­off­for­school.­They­made