Column: Big winds have been blowing here for years
WORTHINGTON — You may have heard me say it because I have said it several times lately. I surely remember winters worse than the one we now have left behind. The winter of 2013-2014 was not one of the big winters. But I do not remember a winter with such incessant winds. You can have an impression of a wind blowing on Dec. 21 and that wind still blowing on March 21. It used to be said the wind goes down with the sun. Well — sometimes. Sometimes those winds have howled right on through the nights.
April. We have left the winter behind, but we have not left the wind behind. On Good Friday I was a passenger in a car on a Worthington restaurant parking lot. A south wind was blowing against my side of the car. I could scarcely get the door open. Then I caught my right foot between the car and the door. I had to push and tug to get my foot free.
Chicago long had a reputation as The Windy City. I remember the late columnist Carl Rowan once wrote a Minneapolis Tribune column about Worthington that I thought was demeaning. I responded with some weather figures I researched that established it is Minneapolis, not Chicago, which deserves the fame or infamy of being America’s Windy City.
Now I wonder about Worthington, and Worthington’s fame.
Let me tell you what you know: Worthington surely has more wind than turkeys. You can depend on wind at Worthington (unless you are hosting a windsurfing regatta).
I have told the story before. I have a memory of Black Sunday. April 14, 1935. Historians now rate Black Sunday as perhaps the darkest day of all the Dust Bowl days. The clouds of Black Sunday extended into New York City and Washington, D.C.
As the dawn of that awful Sunday is described, it was a calm and beautiful spring day across the Midwest. The grass was greening. I was young enough that I was permitted to stand on the seat of a pew next to a window during the sermon that Sunday morning. I could see a great cloud black as ink moving over Worthington, toward the church. The cloud fascinated me. It did not frighten me. What did I know? I was soon aware, however, that there was a stir through all the church. People everywhere seemed to be whispering during the sermon. You didn’t do that. Some were pointing. At my age I could sense uneasiness. Fear.
We worry again about drought. Our wells are down, and our rainfall is lagging. Those terrible storms of the 1930s are well documented, and we read of them rather often — see pictures from the ’30s on television. Drought and dust storms did not begin and end in the Dirty ’30s, however.
I have talked before of visits to Worthington by the literary master Hamlin Garland. Hamlin Garland made trips to Worthington to see his aunt and uncle, Dan and Samantha Shell, his cousin Lee Shell and his uncle Leonard McClintock. Hamlin Garland was growing up, in part, on an Iowa farm just across the border from Austin, MN. I re-read lately Garland’s story of an Iowa dust storm in 1872, the year the first train arrived at Worthington and a time before a plow had touched ground in the Dust Bowl states.
Garland wrote (in, “Son of the Middle Border”):
“One day, just as the early sown wheat was beginning to throw a tinge of green over the brown earth, a tremendous wind arose from the southwest and blew with such devastating fury that the soil, caught up from the field, formed a cloud hundreds of feet high — a cloud which darkened the sky, turning noon into dusk and sending us all to shelter…all afternoon this blizzard of loam raged…the growing grain, its roots exposed to the air, withered and died…
“As the day wore on Father fell into dumb, despairing rage…”
What am I trying to say? Nothing really, except the wind — these winds — are just relentless once again. I don’t remember another time I worked so hard getting a car door open again a howling southwest gale.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.