When I was a child, growing up in the 1930s, my sisters and I walked a mile and a half to and from a one-room school situated in an elm grove on the South Dakota prairies, where winters were long and cold.
Weather forecasts came from Bismarck, North Dakota, which was too far away to be of much use to us. Therefore, our weather predictions were made by my dad, who watched the clouds, the sun, and the behavior of his animals.
I remember one day when the weather appeared threatening, Daddy saddled Old Silver — our beloved saddle horse who was reliable, faithful, gentle and old — and headed out to pick us up from school. By the time he got there, it was snowing briskly, the wind was blowing wildly, and the temperature was dropping steadily. Daddy sat me up in the saddle, then situated my next older sister in the saddle just behind me, and then put my oldest sister behind the saddle. The bridle reins were knotted and looped over the saddle horn, and Daddy walked beside us.
Soon, however, the landmarks Daddy had been using to get us home became obliterated by the swirling of the snow. Since he couldn’t see, he clung to the end of Old Silver’s long, white tail, and we continued to plod along through the snowstorm. I was cold, but I was confident that Old Silver would get us home.
I had heard stories about horses having an amazing sense of direction, but I didn’t really believe it until the day Old Silver proved it to me. We made it home safe and sound, thanks to our wonderful old saddle horse.
Read more winter weather stories in Stories of Snow Accumulation.