Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Barn time in a blizzard: The horses need their hay

By Joan Bennett
The Blizzard of '47

Swirling snow, wind gusts that could flatten a grown man, and howling like a banshee in the wee hours of the morning greeted us as my sisters and I huddled together in the bed meant for one.
The blankets piled high upon us kept us warm but we dared not leave the bed until we could feel some heat rise through the grates in the floor of our bedroom above the first floor kitchen. We could not see anything from our window as it was covered with snow and ice. Our imaginations ran wild.

Dottie, my older sister, spoke with authority, "There must be
three feet of snow on the ground."
Laney, the baby of the family, started to wail, " I won't be able to go out, the snow will cover me."

"Don't fret," I told her, forgetting we would all have to help dad get to the barn to care for the twenty horses we owned.
Helen and Dorothy Scanlon

First our dad had to add coal to the stove in the cellar, which had been banked before we all retired the night before. It took awhile for us to brave removing our pile of quilts and such so we could, like lightning, don our robes and slippers and head for the stairs that led into the kitchen of the old farmhouse in which we lived.

We had been warned via our trusty radio that a strong storm would likely hit us overnight but who would have ever thought a blizzard would be surrounding us as we snuggled in our beds our feet warmed by covered and heated bricks that our mother had placed at the bottom of the bed.
Helen and Walter Scanlon
Our small, outdated kitchen which when we moved into the house only a year before had only a coal stove for cooking and a ice box that looked like a relic from the eighteen hundreds was now equipped with a refrigerator and an electric stove.
Mom had the oven door open to help warm up the  kitchen. A large pot of hot cereal awaited us. Hot tea in mugs would help to
keep us warm when we braved the frigid temperatures outdoors.
Dad was already eating his big bowl of piping hot oatmeal. " Hurry girls, you must eat quickly and get dressed warmly. I'll need your help getting to the barn and taking care of our horses. They are our livelihood. you know."

My sisters and I had never experienced a winter storm as ferocious as on this day so we were amazed when we stepped out the kitchen door and saw the mountains of snow drifts and the covered tree limbs bent with the weight of the snow.

Dad had shoveled a narrow path to the barn which we
trudged along. We were on a mission and had no time for snowball fights or snow angels.

Each of us girls were handed a shovel when we got to the
Walter and Helen Scanlon
barn door. Laney was given a short handled one so that she could push the snow around and feel useful.

The snow had drifted to about six feet up against the barn door. Dad showed each of us how to shovel so we would not strain ourselves. We cleared a large area so that dad could get the barn door open. Dottie helped him as the rungs on the sliding door had frozen stiff.

We quickly entered the stable and closed the door behind us. The
interior was quite warm compared to the freezing cold outside. Each horse had been covered with a blanket the night before and the combined body heat afforded some degree of warmth.
Our first job was to break the ice in each horse's stall so the animals could drink.

The water pipes had frozen so we were unable to top the buckets but in the front of the barn we had a large watering trough with a thin layer of ice which we broke so each horse if still thirsty could leave his stall and drink from the trough.

Dad sailed hay from the loft to the stable floor and with pitch forks we threw it into each stall. The horses stamped their feet as they knew the oats came next but dad wanted to wait until we cleared the piles of snow from the fenced in paddock area.
A few horses at a time would be led out so they could stretch their legs and roll in the piles of snow if they so chose.

Most just ran back into their stalls to eagerly await the oats, which would surely come next.
Instead Dad had us muck out the stalls so the manure would not freeze and be more difficult to remove if it was just left . Into the wheel barrows it went and out to a new steaming manure pile as we couldn't find the old one in all that snow.

When we finally fed the last horse his measure of oats dad rewarded us will gigantic bear hugs and praise for jobs well done. As we dragged ourselves home we noticed that the light snow had stopped and sunlight was filling the sky.

Dottie the optimist remarked as she threw snowballs at Laney and I "I bet this is the only blizzard we'll have this winter so have  some fun."

Editor's note: This story is about the Blizzard of 1947.

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