I mentioned last week that the onset of October brings with it seemingly abrupt changes in the weather patterns here on the prairie. The most notable difference is the wind.
This morning’s forecast shows the wind at 20 mph currently, and calls for blustery conditions to start around 9 AM. As I write this, that’s an hour away. Which is to say, the current 20 mile per hour winds are not the blustery part that is being forecast.
High winds are a common experience for most people in relation to storms. Thunderstorms rolled through our area yesterday, with winds in gusts high enough to rattle the windows. In other areas there are variations on that theme, whether with tropical storms or hurricanes or what have you.
The difference in terms of what I’m talking about here is: there is no storm.
As we roll into the autumn here the winds come up, and stay up, as a part of the natural order of things. Still days will become a special event, to be appreciated but with the expectation that it will be fleeting.
I can imagine the settlers arriving here, late in the spring, ready to break ground and begin planting. They knew that converting the grassland would be hard work, but they also knew that the bounty the fertile ground would yield would be worth the effort. As the summer went on they could see the the fruit of their toils bearing out. As the end of the season approached, they would harvest their produce and stock it up in the root cellars in preparation for what they surely knew would be a cold winter.
And then, I imagine them waking up on an early October morning to the sound of the roofing material trembling above them, the lanes of mottled glass in the windows shaking, and wondering "what fresh hell is this?" They look at each other, and John says "well, Martha, I guess we’re stuck..."
Of course, this is not the case. Our early prairie settlers, it seems, were well aware of the trials that awaited them. Regional history notes that the earliest settlers first put down their roots in the large groves in the area, explicitly because of the relative comforts - building material, hunting grounds, and protection from the weather - that wooded areas offer. This suggests that those who first chose to strike out and make their lives on the open prairie knew what they were getting themselves into. And it suggests they must have been tough bastards for knowingly choosing to do it anyway.