The wind was blowing today. Now on the prairie that is not really anything new. The wind blows everyday or so it seems. If there is a time during the day when the wind isn’t blowing we greet each other on the street and say, “It’s a beautiful day. And the wind isn’t blowing!” The wind and the prairies are one. There is nothing to stop the wind as it blows over coulees and across the fields. Authors of prairie novels often talk about the wind and its influence on people. When reading prairie narratives by women, they often mention the constancy of the wind. All of them said it nearly drove them crazy.
I suppose if you live in another part of the country the wind has its own personality. Out here the wind sighs around corners and in the window-wells; it has an odor of earth and dry grass. Sometimes it is very strong, but other times it caresses your cheek lightly before it moves on.
One of the tragedies of the drought during the 1930s was the loss of tons of topsoil blown off the prairie. There are stories of Kansas soil showing up on ships in the Atlantic and the huge dust storms of the 1930s were clouds of dirt blowing across the prairies. My mother remembered a Memorial Day storm in Sioux Falls SD when she was in college. They had to turn the lights on in the middle of the day. My Dad’s little brother was riding his tricycle and got lost in a dust storm. His older sister and his mother had to fight through the wind and dirt to find him. In the central states like Oklahoma and Nebraska the dirt blew into drifts like snow. The wind can do great damage. We get a good rain and then the wind comes up and blows for a couple of days and dries up that moisture.
Shelter belts were the dream of government farm agencies in the 1930s. Millions of trees and bushes were planted to stop the wind and it worked. Driving across North Dakota you can see the shelter belts still separating the fields and holding back the erosion that is caused by the wind.
On a summer evening, the cool breezes are a real relief from the heat of the day. The curtains billow out and bring soothing, comfortable sleep. On a hot day any stirring air can ease the heat and give a little relief from the sun’s rays.
We measure the cold out here with the addition of wind chill which can send temperatures plummeting and do serious damage to animals, crops and exposed skin.
The wind is a force of nature which must be dealt with. It is as much with us as a next door neighbor. We live with the wind. You take your walk or spray your weeds or paint your shed in the early part of the day before the wind starts to blow. In the evening you throw open the doors and windows and welcome its refreshing touch.
In the book If you’re not from the prairie. . . the author (David Bouchard) describes the wind.
If you’re not from the prairie
You don’t know the wind,
You can’t know the wind.
Our cold winds of winter cut right to the core,
Hot summer wind devils can blow down the door,
As children we know when we play any game,
The wind will be there, yet we play just the same.
If you’re not from the prairies
You don’t know the wind.