Our weather the last several months has been really up and down. Cold then hot, wet then dry. Just can't seem to make up it's mind. Wednesday we had 94 degrees and gusting winds up to 50 miles and hour. I was walking across a parking lot when the wind whipped up and it felt like little bullets hitting the back of my legs. Long pants would have been a better choice than short ones that's for sure. It looked like the days of the dust bowl. We haven't had any real rain for awhile and the dust in the air was incredible.
As I was being blown around all day it reminded me of a night I spent in South Dakota out on the plains when I was 11 years old. I had the rare experience of taking an authentic wagon train ride for seven days across those plains in July of 1972. Now the North Dakota plains in July can be hot and dry and boy was it. We started out in our train of apx. 24 wagons, and at least that many men and women just on horseback, at about 9:00 in the morning and traveled until 5:00 in the evening stopping for lunch mid day. It was a commemorative ride celebrating the birthday of one of the historic forts in the area. We walked more than we sat in the wagon that jostled and swayed like crazy. We wore our long cotton skirts, sun bonnets and walking boots to protect us from the elements. It really was stepping into the past and getting a taste of what our pioneer ancestors experienced moving across this northern part of this huge country. Dinner at the end of the day cooked over an open fire was delicious even if it was a little burned or undercooked.
The fourth night we were out we could see big storm clouds brewing in the distance.By about 9:00 as darkness was closing in and we were getting ready for bed in our tent the wind picked up. There were 4 girls including myself, just getting into our sleeping bags when all of a sudden the tent roof was on top of us. We scrambled to find the tent opening and could hear loud voices and horses getting really excited. By the time we crawled out the rain was coming down and one of the men from a neighboring tent was waving us over for protection in theirs. These people were our neighbors from back home who also came on the trail ride and it was comforting to weather this storm with them.
We must have packed ten children and four women in this 6 man tent and four men were outside holding it up. They could see several small tornadoes in the distance and kept a close eye on them in case they got close. There was a large ditch about 50 yards from our tent if we needed to have better protection but it was covered with poison ivy so it was there as a last ditch (no pun intended) effort. Being inside that tent was like something out of a movie. the sides were thrashing about wildly and we could hear the men shouting over the wind and rain. The horses were at the point of hysteria and one even ran off. All of this lasted for about two hours and it was an experience that is etched securely into my mind. Wind, rain, horses, and people all wild and in for the long ride. I am so grateful for those men that were beaten with rain and wind holding up that tent to keep us all safe.
As will happen many times in this kind of storm, when it was over, it was over. Everything died down. The rain completely stopped. The air was still. People started coming out of their protected areas and wandered around to see if everyone was alright. We didn't see until the next morning when it got light just how fierce the storm was. Many of the tents were down and strewn all over camp. Trees and bushes were torn up. Wagon covers were in varying degrees of disrepair. The blessing was that the cooks got to work making breakfast and everyone else just got to work cleaning up and repairing what needed to be done. It was harmonious and natural and a sight that left a huge impression on an 11 year old girl.
The local authorities came out to make sure we were all right and the horse that ran off was found and safely returned. We hung things out to dry until it was time to pack up and move on. We had miles to cover that day and no time to rest. We picked ourselves up and moved forward. Just like the pioneers would have done. I think I did a lot of internal growing that week. I'm glad for the experience.
What kind of experiences helped to form you?