A Mighty Wind

Spring on the prairie

It is difficult to describe a wind storm here in North Dakota if you haven’t been a part of one. We are now on day five of a rare windstorm from the southeast. Nothing is used to such a storm here; our buildings lean to the southeast, as do people, animals, and, trees because 90 percent of our windstorms emit from the northwest. After decades of a northwest wind, everything tends to squat down in resistance, but invariably you lean to the southeast. It’s a wonder most North Dakotans don’t wander around in circles with one leg shorter than the other from leaning into the wind.

In other areas, a gusty wind in the 20 or 30 mph range might get a mention on the nightly weather forecast.  But this has been day five of an ear-burning, tear-jerking, door-wrenching, omnipresent wind which won’t allow much in the way of constructive activity outdoors. This is a rock-steady wind of 25 mph with crescendos (I can’t call them gusts since they rise and fall slowly) of 35-40 mph. This is spring in North Dakota.

As I walked through the yard yesterday I mentally counted the number of doors the wind has blown off over the last 20 years. I came up with seven, both the front and back doors of the house, both the front and back doors of our machine shed, and both doors of our bunkhouses (one of them twice.)   I suppose some folks think it’s odd to always fully close doors behind you, even on sunny, windless days. But after you’ve reattached a door or two, it comes pretty naturally. And we always close everything up each night, regardless of the forecast.

We drove to Minot yesterday and noted several fires on the horizon. On closer inspection, the “fires” turned out to be tractors doing fieldwork and raising a plume of fast-moving topsoil that wasn’t going to hit the ground again until somewhere in Manitoba. Yep, it was windy.

We get these windstorms spring and fall, although in fall they are usually from the northwest and usually only last a day or so. Such storms tend to drive down a lot of birds on their natural migration from the northwest and so from a waterfowl hunting standpoint, they are a welcome development. In the spring though we like to fish after the fieldwork is done.

 The boat is ready, the gear is ready, the bait is waiting for deployment, but the sad fact is our little half-acre pond by the house has whitecaps on it. Launching on a real walleye lake, however small, would be nearly impossible.  Well, you could launch, but getting the boat back in and on the trailer would be nearly impossible. Don’t ask me how I know.

The Missus put out some plants in the garden spot last week but now who knows what will survive this storm, which is not supposed to abate until sometime this weekend. She was working outside for a bit yesterday and commented on how the wind “dried her out.” I guess a wind like this will do that.

I recently completed some research on a group of Canadian mixed-race hunters (the Metis) who traveled to central North Dakota each spring to hunt bison. This was in the 1850s. On a calm day, you might wonder how they preserved the meat for the long journey back to the Canadian Border without ice or refrigeration. A wind storm like this explains it. I imagine if you hung strips of bison meat or fish to dry in a wind like this it would take about a day and it would dry down to nothing.

But we don’t have meat to preserve or fish to eat; we just have the wind howling outside…again…still.

Spring on the prairie.


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