WOSTER: Gearing up for a South Dakota Nor'easter

One spring back on the farm, rain fell for something like 900 straight days, filling draws, cutting new drainages along the ends of dam banks and turning the barnyard into about a dozen inches of slop.

Terry Woster
Terry Woster

One spring back on the farm, rain fell for something like 900 straight days, filling draws, cutting new drainages along the ends of dam banks and turning the barnyard into about a dozen inches of slop.

I don't know if it really was that kind of drought-breaker or if it only seemed so because I'd invited two friends from town out to spend a couple of days, and the rain placed some limits on the kinds of things we could do for excitement. What we couldn't do was spend every hour of every day in the house. My mom saw to that.

I don't know if we were loud -- well, sure, I do. We were fourth- or fifth-graders. We were as loud as banshees, I suppose, and the farm house wasn't all that big. A mother working in the kitchen (and we had a pretty open floor plan in those days) wouldn't be able to escape the noise of three 10-year-old boys no matter how many pots and pans she banged around. But she was usually pretty good at suffering the little children and all that.

I suppose at some point each day, she had suffered them quite enough, and it was time for the little children to share in the suffering. Or, maybe she was way ahead of Michelle Obama on this thing about getting young America moving.

Whatever the reason, every day after lunch, my mom suggested my friends and I should put on rain gear and rubber boots and play outside a while. Well, we were happy enough to do that. It wasn't often than a parent would tell a kid to go outside and play in the rain. Usually, the mom or dad was calling the kids inside, and if it was the dad -- mine, anyway -- the call often included a good-natured "Don't you have sense enough to come in out of the rain?''


(I think it was good-natured. It never occurred to me until just now that maybe he was asking a serious question about his middle child. Hmm. This could completely change my perceptions of a happy childhood.)

We had rain gear, of course. We had serious rain gear. The four-buckle rubber galoshes fastened tightly enough that the boot wouldn't get stuck in the mud of the barnyard, leaving the wearer stranded on one leg. The black rubber rain slicker reached to the top of the galoshes. The sleeves were long enough to cover all but the end knuckles of my fingers. The collar stood tight against the neck, keeping water from dripping inside. Even if the collar of the slicker hadn't shed rain, each of us kids had a black rubber rain hat, a ski-mask sort of thing that slipped over the head and came down over the collar of the slicker. A long bill kept the rain away from the face. So geared, we headed out the door to splash around in the rain.

We were sort of like Christopher Robin in ''Winnie the Pooh,'' perhaps less stylish than that little guy's yellow slicker and Nor'easter hat, but certainly more menacing in our black outfits that looked kind of like the bullet-proof ones those guys wear in the weird "killing people'' movies.

After we geared up, we headed for the barnyard to slop around in the muck. Pretty soon, we'd walk inside the barn and meander through clumps of hay still scattered around from the days when it was a working cattle shelter. The hay clung to the muck on our boots, of course, and before long, we were slogging around with 10 pounds of added weight hanging on our feet.

That never bothered us, for some reason. The only bother came if we walked back into the house without doing some serious scraping of our boots on the wet grass in the back yard. We had a porch that served as a mud room, but my mom had a limit to how much mud a kid could track into the mud room.

My friend and I wore those black slickers and Nor'easter caps one year to be knights in the homecoming parade, riding stick ponies. We thought we were cool. I'm guessing we were dorks.

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