Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Walk (07/20/06)
TITLE: A Way In The Storm
By Edy T Johnson
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“Everybody has to leave, right now.” He sounded out of breath. “A big blizzard’s coming.”
We wouldn’t have to say our Christmas “pieces,” after all.
The people, assembled that Sunday afternoon in the Isabel township schoolhouse, made quick work bundling their children in coats and boots. Without anyone directing them to do so, every vehicle fell into line like so many links in a chain.
“Look, Mama! It’s like a train.” The little boy, peering out a side window, watched the autos begin winding their way across the prairie. The vehicles resembled little bugs in a white cocoon haze. His older brother, who had been reading American history corrected him.
“No, it’s more like a wagon train.”
“Do you know why everyone is sticking together?” Mama turned from her place in the front passenger seat. “We have to make sure everyone gets home safely. In a blizzard, people can lose their way and freeze to death.”
“Ooooh!” The children’s eyes widened. Mama had their attention, as the first farmyard came in sight.
“Back before North Dakota was a state, in the 1880s, a terrible storm they called the Schoolhouse Blizzard caught a lot of people by surprise. Then, in 1940, when your big sister was a baby, the great Armistice Day Blizzard again took a lot of lives, people and livestock. Telephone and telegraph lines went down and even the trains couldn’t run.”
“Why did people go out in the storm?”
“It was an ordinary day when the children left for school, in fact it was unseasonably warm. Same thing in 1940. Hunters were enjoying the holiday, with Indian summer temperatures. Nobody knew the storm was coming. They weren’t wearing warm enough clothes when the temperature dropped, in some places more than 70 degrees. It was just unbelievable. The snow was blowing so hard, a person couldn’t see where they were going. Some called it a land hurricane. Snowdrifts piled up higher than the top of railroad steam locomotives.”
“What happened to the school kids?”
“Well, one young man tried to get home on horseback. He didn’t make it. He got lost in the blinding snow. People found him later, too late. Many brave teachers kept their students with them at school, keeping warm as best they could until the storm was over. In another place, a dad tied a rope to his porch railing and headed in the direction of the school. That was so he could find his way back home, in case he got lost. But, he made it to the school. And, he led the children to safety, as they walked home, holding onto that rope.”
“I guess it would be pretty hard to walk in such deep snow. And, if you couldn’t see where you were going...” Big Brother’s voice sounded low and thoughtful. “...I bet even hanging onto the rope, the kids were scared, and awful cold.”
“Now you understand why we take precautions. We bring along extra warm clothes this time of the year, just in case.... Okay, here’s the Haugen place. Everyone is home safe.”
“But, we’re the last ones...!”
“Don’t worry, Little Ben. We can still see the road, and Haugens’ farm is only half a mile out of town. So, we’re almost home. See? Look at those lights ahead? That’s the town. We’ll make it.”
“I seem to recall you children memorized Christmas pieces to recite at the program, today.” The children could see Dad’s eyes in the rear-view mirror, smiling at them. “You didn’t think we’d let you off the hook just because of a little blizzard, did you? Who’s first?”
“Well, mine’s about the shepherds, and why they had to be out at night watching the sheep. It’s from Isaiah 53:6 ‘All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.’” Big Brother frowned, then brightened. “I get it! The shepherds were like that man with the rope, helping the children find their way home in the storm!"
“What do you think, Mother? Did our Big Joe just give us an introduction to our Christmas sermon?”
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