Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Historic Winter - 1978

Terry Stearns
Gabe's Road - 1/2 mile from Hwy
December 1978
Over the weekend, I found the photos of the Winter of 1978, and I discovered the photo on this post is really from 1986 and not 1978, as I first indicated. Once I saw the other photos of 1986, the memories came back, but that is for another post.

This post contains a lot of photos of the aftermath of the 1978 storms. I am giving direction and road names for those know the area: my apologies to those who do not.

Long-time readers of this blog know that I grew up on a dairy farm. My mother and brother did all the work themselves, and the Winter of 1978 kept them extremely busy. Fresh straw had to be placed in the corral for the cows to have a place to bed down and not freeze their udders. The cows had to be fed twice a day, they needed fresh water (sometimes the stock tanks or automatic waterers would freeze), calves had to be fed and kept warm with fresh straw and heat lamps. It was exhausting work, but the Winter of 1978 compounded that work because all of the outside chores had to be done in miserable conditions - high winds and drifting snow. Then, add the stress of not knowing if the milk truck would be able to navigate the roads to pick up the fresh milk or if the electricity (juice) would go out. I admire my brother and mother for enduring those grueling days and nights.
Looking North on Gabe's Road
This is the route the milk truck used to come to the farm.
If the truck didn't arrive, and the stainless steel tank in the barn
 was full, the milk had to be dumped.
It was difficult for the County Road Department
to keep roads open after they were plowed as the wind continued
to blow and new drifts were created.
My brother, Rich was constantly pulling stalled vehicles out
with his tractor, that is if he could get to the vehicle.
Gabe's Road plowed and ready for traffic.
It was dangerous to drive after sundown, especially if the wind
was blowing: drifts could not be seen until it was too late. 
Wild Licorice Road, looking East.
This is the small hill that led to the farm from Gabe's Road.
On the left of the road is a deep irrigation ditch with cement drops.
That ditch was drifted over so it is difficult to distinguish
between the road and the ditch.
It may look like a road, but this is the drifted irrigation ditch, especially
dangerous if an unsuspecting driver thought it was a road.
Wild Licorice Road, looking West from the weir.
Even if the roads were plowed, a strong wind could create
new drifts in a matter of minutes. Farmers took down their fences and
created paths through their fields circumventing the roads until the
winds stopped creating massive drifts.
Clearing the road (Wild Licorice) in front of the farm.
The County Road Department worked long, long hours. 
Even this big equipment struggled with the packed snow.
Progress was slow, but it was still progress - that is until the
wind started howling again.
Wild Licorice Road, looking west up the hill to the farm.
 It was hard to know if or when you would meet another vehicle
at the crest of the hill. One lane traffic made careful driving a must. 
Rich, Pepper, and Rosa Stearns
Rich moved as much snow as he could in the farm yard with this tractor.
After the winter of 1978, Rich purchased a rear-mounted snow blower for this
tractor. In 1986, he managed to keep Gabe's Road clear for the milk truck,
but it took most of the day. They also purchased a generator that hooked up to the
tractor's power take-off. If the electricity went off for an extended period, they didn't
need to milk 60 - 70 head of cattle by hand. Many lessons were learned from
the Winter of 1978.
Rosa Stearns, always a jokester, keeps an eye out for the County dozer. 
By the time I was ready to go back to Wheatland, Gabe's Road had been
widened enough for two vehicles to meet and pass each other.


  1. That's an amazing amount of snow! I really enjoyed the pictures and story behind them. I've heard of big snows like that from my husband who grew up in Vermont, but I've never experienced anything like it, since I grew up in the South. And from what you describe, I don't think I ever want to.

  2. Reminds me so very much of my mother's family's life in upstate New York. Also dairy farmers, also insane amounts of snow... good memories!!

  3. Can't imagine that much snow and oh my gosh I bet it makes a LOT of mud too.


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