Rivers of Runoff

On the Dakota plains, frigid winter weather and snow give way to warmer temperatures and running water — both equally entertaining for a farm kid.

| March/April 2018

  • Miniature rivers formed by melting snow were fun to play in.
    Illustration by Dennis Auth Illustration
  • Giant piles of snow are cause for celebration among children.
    Illustration by Dennis Auth Illustration

After enduring a long, cold winter out here on the prairie, the arrival of the first warm days of spring are an elixir. The true Fountain of Youth, as far as I’m concerned, is the sight of meltwater trickling from the base of a decaying snowdrift.

Winter might have its high points, but they become more difficult to find with each passing year. It lifts my heart to see the backside of that season as it beats a retreat.

As a youngster, I saw winter as just another excuse to have fun. Dad would clear snow from our farmstead with his Farmall M and loader, making a snow pile that would rival the Himalayas — or so it seemed to my seven siblings and me.

That snow pile immediately became our Everest. We intrepidly blazed a trail to its craggy peak. This pathway was used by subsequent adventurers who longed to soak in the breathtaking vista of our dairy farm as seen from the summit of the snow pile.

One winter, a gargantuan snowbank formed close to our farmhouse. It was so huge that a kid could have climbed out a second story window and directly onto the top of the drift. And we might have, except we knew that our parents would have scolded us for allowing precious heat to escape out the window.

We discovered that the humongous snowdrift was ideal for making snow tunnels, so we set upon it like a bevy of burrowing beavers. The snowdrift was soon honeycombed with tunnels and shafts, dead ends and secret entrances. It was like having our own 3-D maze.

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