Woster: Easter weather brings memories of dad on the farm
The loveliness of the Easter weekend makes me think winter is starting to take the hint
Several days ago, as I did some writing in my upstairs office, I checked my phone and saw a text: “There’s a boat on the river.’’
By the time I noticed the message and got to the window, the boat had disappeared downstream. At least that's where Nancy said it went. She sent the note.
We often see boats from our home on the river bank. This day, though, the river still wore a coat of ice. You might say the coat was unbuttoned, because a narrow trail of open water snaked its way south between thick patches of ice that covered most of the surface from bank to bank. The boat must have pushed the ice as forcefully as it pushed the season that day. Well, if there is a fishing boat on the river, can warm weather be far behind?
Turned out, yes, it can be. Just days later a blizzard struck a good chunk of South Dakota. Interstate highways closed. Drifts settled over pastures, residential yards and downtown sidewalks. Schools canceled classes or switched to virtual learning.
The intense storm passed in a couple of days. By Holy Thursday and Good Friday, most of the state had dug free and much of the snow was in melting retreat. On Thursday morning, I looked out upon a totally flat river, a welcome sight after those days of strong wind.
The wind had chased much of the ice downriver. A few smaller chunks still drifted on a gentle current. The water’s surface was so still, and the cloudless sky so icy blue, the bluffs on the far side reflected in the water.
That created an upside-down image, with the water looking like the sky and the ice chunks appearing as cottony clouds riding gentle air currents. I didn’t snap a picture. I just looked.
Easter weekend’s sun melted the last of the snow on our land, leaving a few puddles on our rutted road. Patches of green began to show on the lawn. I recalled how my dad loved to drive around our fields and pastures on such days.
He would drive slowly, gazing side to side at the water-filled ditches. From time to time, he would swing the pickup off the road into a pasture, gun the motor to reach a high, dry spot, get out and drop to one knee. He would gently run a hand through last season’s brittle grass to find blades of green that promised to be this season’s feed.
He found wonder in the new growth, wonder in each new calf born in the spring. Sometimes, even when it was clear that the cow and her hours-old baby were doing just fine, he would leave the pickup and walk slowly toward the pair, wary of the protective mother’s instinct to charge but wanting to get a closer look at the newborn.
As I grew older, it occurred to me that such moments were what buoyed his spirit when he stood in a puddle of mud in a field of wheat that had just been flattened by ferocious hail and wind. Somehow, he managed to see past the destruction of the moment to the promise of next summer’s hay, next harvest’s bounty and next fall’s herd of calves to brand.
I have found myself trying to do that during bleak winters like the one just passing (I hope). All winter long I took moments to look out the window at the river. Some days the ice was thick and cracked, from bank to bank.
Some days a deep layer of fresh snow, often blown into rock-hard drifts by the endless winds, covered the ice. Occasionally, when the temperature rose for several days at a time, the channel opened and ice floes the size of Volkswagens glided past.
Each time the river opened, however briefly, I took it as a sign that winter was fading. This year, winter hung on a little too long for my taste, like a house guest who ignores a host’s not-so-subtle signals that it is time to leave.
The loveliness of the Easter weekend makes me think winter is starting to take the hint.