By Lynn Moncus: QCS Columnist
People who are new to our area or who are young are learning more than they want to know about high winds, dust storms and prairie fires. Some may not have discovered why they are feeling tense or even a little bit combative, but they will figure out eventually that high winds and barometric pressure can cause even-tempered people to be irascible. We have to work harder than usual to remain calm and to avoid lashing out at others.
Last Sunday provided a sample of the wind storms we lived through during the 30s, 40s and 50s when we couldn’t see very far and could feel the sting of gravel peppering us. Several of us compared stories from those years and recalled when we couldn’t see past our windshields while driving. We watched dirt pile up on fences so cattle could cross at leisure and scatter as they ambled away from the wind or in search of food and water.
While I attended school at House, I remember we would move our desks as far away from the windows as possible to keep from being covered with dust and be out of the way in case glass flew around the room.
We would dash to the gym for recess because we couldn’t play outside and would wait as long as possible before going to the outdoor restrooms because we could hardly see to get there and back. By the end of the school day, we would look like a bunch of waifs who hadn’t washed their faces in weeks, only to look the same the next day.
In those days, girls wore dresses to school at all times unless there were major snowstorms, and we were uncomfortable during dust storms because gravel would sting our legs. We usually looked like a bevy of quail as we walked to school because we would walk or run between gusts and then sit quickly to cover our legs with our skirts when a sheet of sand would hit. At least, such experiences aren’t endured by most girls today because they wear pants and they don’t walk to school often.
We were fortunate when we lived in the canyons because we were sheltered from the wind and most of the dust blew right over us. We didn’t have to hang cloths over the windows and doors, nor did we have to hide all food to keep it from being covered with dust. During the worst days, I was eager to stay in the house to help Mother and would become temperamental when Dad would decide he needed to check on the cattle and would have me saddle ‘ol Spud so we could ride through the pastures and plowed fields. We’d cover our faces, pull our hats down and ride into the dirty until we counted every head of cattle and checked at fences and watering places. We’d look like a couple of bandits when we stopped at the store to get the mail.
As I drove along Sunday afternoon watching the dirt obliterating the mesas, I was recalling many of those early experiences and was most thankful to be safely in the car and to know I could dash from the garage to the house without being sandblasted. I was also aware that tension was higher than usual, and I needed to work to remain calm. We really need to be patient with each other and with ourselves when we have too many dust storms in a row.