I always figured it would be a cold day in Des Moines before I ventured to Iowa in February. It didn’t work out so well for Buddy Holly.
Fate intervened with the death of my mother-in-law and with the high temperature for the week forecast for 31 degrees in Central Iowa. I found myself strapped into an airplane next to my white-knuckled wife on the anniversary of the day the music died.
As we got closer to our Des Moines destination I began to notice the beginning of a sheet of ice forming on the wing of our plane. I decided I just wouldn’t mention that to my already burdened wife.
I could see the lush rivers I had toured in other seasons were a frozen ribbon with snowmobile tracks scribbled across their surface. We had touched down between snowstorms in what Iowans tell me has been the coldest winter in many years.
By midnight the first night Mother Nature had tucked a winter white blanket over everything and temps had dropped to single digits. That evening things got serious with 5 inches of snow and temperatures below zero. Our coldest night last week in Iowa turned out to be -8.
I had experienced cold like that only one other time — in Colorado on the week that my mother-in-law chose to come for a visit. That winter the low at my house was -12 and the mercury never really climbed above zero all week.
Plumbing in a mobile home, even a well winterized mobile home ,doesn’t fare well when it stays that cold that long. Ours became frozen solid front to back, including the water pump. Hauling water and flushing with a bucket might be romantic for a young snowbound couple, but it’s not the week you want to have your mother-in-law on deck.
Surprisingly, the cold, snow and rigors of winter brought out a side of her I’m glad I got to see. It took her back to her childhood and the woman who complained if everything didn’t go just right was actually enjoying her visit.
I wish I could say I had as good a time as I experienced her beloved Des Moines in winter, but I think I understand where her mind was that week in Colorado.
When she talked about growing up in Iowa, she talked about being snowed-in, about times spent ice skating on the pond in the park near her house. Just the challenges of staying warm in the winter in the Great Depression left her with a different life experience than most of us.
Her worries are past now and our memories are as crisp as the Iowa air in February.
Karl Terry, a former publisher of the Quay County Sun, writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at: