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AMY KIRK: All the snowed-in ladies

AUTHOR’S NOTE: While snowbound, none of us knew how bad other areas were hit with the storm. As accounts of the death toll of livestock have been revealed since I originally wrote this, a nauseating feeling has settled in the pit of my stomach. It’s been hard not to get emotional. Our family was not affected as badly — only 6 to 8 feet of snow — but many friends and acquaintances of ours have been. Please pray with me for the families whose livelihood and emotions have been affected by storm Atlas.

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Amy Kirk, Daily Republic columnist  When it’s “one of those days” for me, you know, the kind when I get stranded by a snowstorm, there’s no place I’d rather be stuck and without power than in a lodge setting surrounded by like-minded women who care deeply about their livelihood — agriculture — as much as I do.

I recently attended the annual Women in Ag conference at the K bar S Lodge in Keystone. I highly recommend getting stranded there by the way — superb hospitality, generous snowed-in accommodations, great staff and outstanding food cooked without power — with beer and wine available for sale.

All of the farm and ranch women who came were well informed of the snowstorm forecast for the Black Hills, so being snowed in was no surprise. Many of the other ranch women were not bothered over the possibility of being stuck at the lodge another night with other women in agriculture. The longer stay gave all of us more time to connect, network and strengthen friendships with women we only see at the annual conference.

What started out as rain turned into wet snow, and by Friday morning the K bar S Lodge didn’t have power. A foot of snow had landed by then and more was piling up. Since all but one of the speakers were already there, the conference went on. During breaks, though, the hallways and conference room were a beehive of activity, abuzz with women calling home on cell phones and having mini powwows with fellow travelers to discuss their traveling options and decisions.

The rural women that were stranded could be divided into two categories: Those with children at home with Dad, and those whose children were grown and left the nest. The two categories of women reacted to the news of road conditions and closures differently. The young mothers were concerned about everyone but themselves — how their husbands would feed and care for their children in addition to taking care of livestock needs and how the kids would manage without Mom. The other category of women were elated to have a legitimate excuse to have a longer-than-expected day off, and took advantage of the post-WIA conference to enjoy more visiting with each other and making new friends out of acquaintances, since the conference for many of the women is the only opportunity they have to get away.

The resilience of rural women of agriculture shone as all of us looked at the positives of the situation by helping each other and others — sharing shovels, flashlights, car phone chargers and even snow boots. I noticed the bulk of people digging and helping push cars out and scooping pathways out of 2 feet of snow were rural women in agriculture (plus the two husbands that drove their wives out and one male speaker). In true rural women fashion, the WIA committee members put on a WIA hospitality room for our group’s strandees to enjoy more fellowship, conversation and food.

After all day shoveling heavy wet snow, helping push nearly a dozen vehicles out and subsisting without power, my No. 1 priority when I got home was to treat myself and get one of those good kinds of shovels for my car — not the crappy kind I used.

— Amy Kirk and her husband raise their two kids on a fourth-generation cow/calf operation near Pringle. She blogs at ranchwifeslant.area