Sunday, March 4, 2012

Winter in South Dakota

As winter wanes (we hope!), I have remembered a particular late winter day about 53 years ago. I hope you'll enjoy this episode from my past. 

I love my home state of South Dakota, but even I have to admit that it’s not at its most beautiful in late winter. Especially if there isn’t a blanket of pristine white snow spread out over it.

It was an especially dreary early March Sunday afternoon way back in 1959 when my husband-to-be Bud and I drove across the prairie from my parents’ farm near Scotland to a small town (which shall remain nameless in this article) west of Mitchell. Bud had just finished barbering school and needed an experienced, licensed barber to take him on for a one-year apprenticeship.

We drove under cloudy gray skies past field after brown field with only patches of crusty, dirty snow to break up the monotony. Scraggly scrub cedars and clumps of weeds swayed in the cold wind. Not a bird or rabbit could be seen.

Then we entered the town, and things went downhill! There had been a huge fire on the main street of the town just a few weeks before. It left a charred and gaping hole. Because it was Sunday, all the stores were closed. It looked as though no one lived in the town.

Is this to be my future home, I wondered, a feeling of gloom settling over me. But, if Bud could get the position, he would have to take it, and we would have to start our married life there.

We found the barber shop in an old building on Main Street. The elderly barber welcomed us and did a short interview. He agreed to let Bud work with him for a year starting after our wedding in  June.

As we made our way back home, I tried to sound enthusiastic about the situation, but I couldn’t help feeling I would rather not live in that desolate-looking little town. I wondered what kind of apartment we would find. Would I be able to get a teaching position?

A few weeks later, Bud received word that the barber in that little town had died suddenly of a heart attack. The feeling of relief which washed over me was certainly tinged with a little guilt, even though I knew I had nothing to do with the man’s death. 

Bud launched a new search for a barber to give him a year’s supervised experience and found Charlie Branaugh in Yankton. And so it was we were able to start our life together in this beautiful town along the river. 

Yes, it gets a bit brown and dingy-looking here sometimes in February and March, but after almost 53 years of living here happily, we know March fades into April, and that always brings the promise of spring and all its beauty.