2019 JAN FEB DOWN COUNTRY ROADS MAGAZINE DCR Jan.Feb.2019 web - Page 27

Top left: Railroad workers used rotary plows like this to churn their way through hard-packed drifts that often were taller than locomotives. Workers first had to shovel through the top layers so the rotors could cut and blow the remainder. In the month after the first storm, only three trains made it to Faith. Bottom left: Once the 5th Army’s “Operation Snowbound” was going strong, more than 6,000 military members and civilian contractors were on the job, digging out highways plus farm and ranch lanes. During more than two months of blizzard conditions, it was not uncommon to re-plow roads and rail lines many times. Above, right: As storms continued, temperatures on the High Plains plum- meted, further freezing drifts into dense obstacles that required bull- dozers — and sometimes dynamite — to open and push out of the way. [Army­Corps­of­Engineer­photos] it­the­first­day,­a­transportation­plan­that­continued­for­the­rest of­the­week.­When­one­of­the­boys­was­frostbitten­and­the weather­showed­no­signs­of­changing,­a­decision­was­made­to have­school­in­Fern’s­bedroom,­the­temporary­upstairs­loca- tion­at­Myron­and­Sophie’s­house­where­Fern­would­be­stay- ing­until­the­weather­broke. Fern­and­the­children­made­one­more­hike­to­Hope­School to­load­a­sled­with­classroom­essentials.­Back­at­the­Harwoods’ house,­two­planks­were­found­for­the­kids;­one­served­as­their bench­and­the­other­for­their­desktop.­­ “I­used­a­card­table­for­my­desk,”­Fern­remembers­of­the small­space­that­became­a­classroom­by­day­and­sleeping­place at­night. Fern­still­speaks­of­her­admiration­for­Myron­and­Sophie’s capability­to­cope­with­more­than­three­months­of­blizzard weather­and­hungry­people­in­their­house­that,­“doubled­their family.”­The­Harwoods­were­resourceful,­with­cows­and­chick- ens,­plus­other­provisions.­­ “We­ate­at­lot­of­[homemade]­ice­cream,”­she­says­with­a laugh. When­ there­ were­ breaks­ in­ the­ weather­ and­ roads­ were briefly­open,­the­Harwoods­joined­their­neighbors,­going­to Sturgis­and­other­towns­for­groceries­and­necessities.­An­in- formal­logistics­network­of­“flying­farmers”­also­assisted­bliz- zard-bound­residents­with­air­drops­of­mail­and­medications. “We­liked­to­say­that­we­were­probably­the­only­school­that didn’t­miss­a­day,”­Fern­says­of­the­experience­that­continued until­the­end­of­March­when­the­road­to­Hope­School­was­re- liably­dry­enough­to­permit­travel­by­car.­­ First­tested­by­blizzards,­Fern’s­many­lifetime­achievements have­included­finishing­a­degree­from­Black­Hills­State,­teach- ing­for­18­years,­marriage­to­the­late­Wayne­O’Connor­and­rais- ing­a­family. “Everybody­had­a­story­to­tell,”­Jerry­Spargur­recalls­of being­a­Custer­sixth­grader­that­winter.­Kids­like­Jerry­had “damn­near­two­weeks”­of­extra­holiday­vacation;­classroom storytelling­—­and,­no­doubt,­essay­writing­—­had­to­wait. Jerry’s­family,­parents­Irvin­and­Mildred­plus­four­brothers, lived­about­a­mile­north­of­town­on­a­rented,­80-acre­place. Yes,­they­walked­to­school­(mostly­downhill)­after­community life­recovered­from­the­initial­storm­and­residents­learned­to cope­with­the­remainder­of­the­punishing­season.­Trudging back­home­to­complete­chores­before­supper­required­extra­ef- fort. The­Burlington­rail­line­was­close­to­their­farm.­When­a­ro- tary­plow­finally­arrived­to­dig­out­a­30-foot­cut,­the­straining DOWN COUNTRY ROADS 27