Bearing an Iowa winter

I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling just a little bit sorry for myself on these snowy, sometimes stormy, mornings when I have to head down the road in uncertainty about what’s out there. When I leave, it’s dark (thank you, Daylight Savings Time) and cold. On a recent morning, I was undecided if I should even leave or wait for the two-hour delay to change to cancellation, which seemed to me to be eminent.

Then I don my full-length down coat and leave my house with its central heating, enter my garage without going outside, and aget into my car that has an automatic heater. (Sorry, no heated seats) It doesn’t take long for the heater to begin blowing out nice, warm air, and my trip is cozy.

While it’s not totally pleasant, just think about how easy we have it compared to the generations before us who had to brave brutal Iowa winter weather without the comforts and conveniences that make our lives easier than our grandparents would have ever dreamed possible.

My grandmother, born a few years before the turn of the 20th century, lived in Iowa all of her life, always in small towns or on a farm. She taught country school back when that was not for the faint of heart, at least as far as winter weather was concerned.

First of all, commuting to school meant walking on the country roads, sometimes several miles, even in the dead of winter. I have a picture of Grandma as a young teacher on her way on a winter morning, with her full-length wool coat, wearing a hat and carrying a muff to keep her hands warm, but still wearing a dress.

There weren’t any automatic notifications or notices on TV when it was too cold or snowy to hold school back then. Grandma wrote about what it was like during the winter of 1916: “One terrible cold day Joseph – 6-year-old – froze his face walking to school. When his dad found out how cold it was, he came for him. And Bill (her brother-in-law) came for me in a bob sled. We took the other two boys home. No school that day.”

Being a country school teacher also brought with it janitorial duties like sweeping. As the first one at school every morning, it was up to her to get a fire going in the stove to at least take the chill off by the time the students arrived. “One morning when I got to school,” Grandma writes, “it was a fire. I ran a quarter of a mile to the nearest home for help. The line call was given, and everyone came with water and soon had it out. It had burned a large hole in the floor. Cleaned it up and had school.”

I guess we don’t have it so bad now after all.