Late last month we had a nine-hour power outage at our western Iowa farm home during a thunder snowstorm with heavy wet snow and high winds.  Everyone in snow country has stories of electric power outages.  

Farm and ranch people experience these events frequently and possibly cope better than people in metropolitan areas, or think we do.

Many stories are about suffering.  There are serious tragedies, such as the thousands of cattle, sheep and some horses that died in Winter Storm Atlas in early October last year, mainly in western South Dakota.

There also are tongue-in-cheek stories about how farmers fended off terrible blizzards and plowed through snow drifts to get to town to complain about the weather–and to see who made it first to the coffee shop.  And we all know blizzards and state basketball tournaments occur simultaneously.

Farm people are more likely than town folks to keep their appointments with me in the consulting office when the weather is bad.  Most farmers have 4-wheel-drive vehicles, the “know-how” and equipment to clear roadways, and a strong desire to keep agreed-upon commitments.

We don’t have an electric generator like many farmers–especially those with livestock–rely on for back-up.

Marilyn frequently urges me to buy and install one.  I gave my word that I would look into the matter so she would feel safer.

The longest power outage I remember is the five days we were without electricity during the Halloween 1991 ice and snow storm that crippled two-thirds of the U.S.  I was gone for most of it.

After harvest, two brothers and I went on a “sibling-bonding” trip to Yellowstone National Park for four days before it closed officially on October 31 and to fish the Snake River in nearby Idaho.  Upon meeting at the Salt Lake City airport, we rented a 4-wheel-drive vehicle and drove in treacherous snow and cold to Mack’s Inn near West Yellowstone.

A family friend gave permission for us to stay at her summer cabin near the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River where it emerges as an artesian spring large enough to meet the water needs of 300,000 people even before it flows several miles to the Snake River. 

We couldn’t drive to the cabin because of eight-foot-high drifts but we hiked in a half mile and found it occupied by a very cold chipmunk.

We opted to rent a cabin close by Mack’s Inn and had to keep the water trickling to prevent the pipes from freezing.  The warmest the outside temperature reached during our entire trip was -17 F. 

The first two days we snowshoed a quarter mile through deep snow to the renowned trout stream, the “Henry’s Fork.”  We caught abundant trout but had to keep our fly-fishing rods and hands in the river water to keep them from freezing.

Then we spent two days in the parts of Yellowstone National Park we could reach by driving our vehicle.  Except for one brave couple on their honeymoon, we never saw another person. 

We were the only human witnesses as Old Faithful spouted and drove the elk and bison from lying on the nearby warm rock surface around the orifice of the geyser as it blew.

Meanwhile back in Iowa, Marilyn, our two children and a hired hand were coping without electricity by switching over to a rural community water system and allowing the water to trickle continuously so the livestock waterers wouldn’t freeze.  Marilyn and the kids kept the fireplace burning with its built-in system to heat the house. 

When we constructed our home four years earlier we installed a system to draw air from the crawlspace under the house to circulate around the hot fire-place box and to disperse it around the main portion of our house.  We also installed a wood-burning cook-stove in the kitchen that they used to prepare meals and heat the kitchen. 

Neighbors with a generator invited Marilyn and the kids over, but it was more for companionship than comfort.  The coldest temperature reached anywhere in our house during the five-day siege was 48 F. 

How much better this was than what pioneer families endured as they settled rural America and Canada!  During our recent nine-hour powerless episode, Marilyn and I sat in our rocking chairs in front of the fireplace, talked at length and ate supper prepared on our cook-stove.  We recalled how we made our entire Christmas dinner on the wood-burning range a few years back when we were without electric power over the holiday. 

We explored discussion topics we don’t usually consider when we eat supper at the table.  We lit candles for light.  It was fun.

At bedtime we slept harder than we had for quite a while.  We won’t suffer if we have another power outage. 

But I will make sure we have a generator soon that we too can rely on if necessary, even though I must say it was pleasant without electricity for a while.