February 18, 2021
One hundred years ago today my father was born in a farm house a couple miles or so north of Abdal, Nebraska. He was his parents fourth and last child.
I don’t remember Dad or his parents talking about the circumstances surrounding his birth. But they did talk about the day they found their baby boy drinking kerosene. Grandmother was on a ladder painting the farmhouse porch when she looked down to see her youngest trying to drink the kerosene she planned to clean her brush with.
The doctor was summoned from Nelson, My grandparents told a vivid story of the doctor rushing to the farm. He didn’t take time to fasten his automobile’s side curtains which were flapping in the breeze. I can visualize an open roadster barreling down the road with the canvas flapping in the wind.
Dad survived the incident unharmed but he certainly scared the adults.
I would think his arrival on Feb. 18, 1918, would have also been a taxing circumstance.
On Monday the National Weather Service reported the Feb. 15 low temperature for Hastings had broken a record set three days before Dad’s birth in 1918.
If it was bitterly cold in Hastings on Feb. 15, 1918, it was also bitterly cold in the Abdal community northwest of Superior.
We think we have it rough this week, what must it have been like in a 1918 vintage farm house. No storm windows, no insulation, no electricity and only primitive heating stoves. What did those stoves used for fuel? It wasn’t propane or natural gas like we have today. It is unlikely they had firewood for timber was in short supply.
I remember Grandfather talking about going from Abdal to Superior for coal and heating with corn when the coal price soared out of reach.
There was a time when this newspaper published advertisements for corn stoves. Though the didn’t think the stoves would totally replace natural gas, sales people encouraged me to install the stoves as back up heat sources here at the newspaper and at home. Are the stoves still being used or did corn stoves prove to be a short-lived novelty?
If the multi-state, multi-day electrical power blackout the Southwest Power Pool fears happens this week, a corn stove would look pretty good.
Here at the newspaper, we have one natural gas heating stove in a second floor space the late Howard Crilly used for an office. It wouldn’t be pleasant but if the electrical power goes off for an extended period, we can retreat to that area and light the old stove. Don’t know for sure but that stove could be near 90 years old. I’ve been told it should be replaced with a more modern stove but I like it because it doesn’t require electricity to operate. Light it when you want heat, turn it off when you don’t.
Monday morning I suspect there were people in Holdrege who would have liked to have had that heating stove. Portions of that community were without power on Monday and alternative shelters were being opened. Downed power poles had left much of the business district with out electrical power and some residential locations. Later in the day the Nebraska Public Power District began scheduling outages. The first for Superior came about noon and lasted about 30 minutes. It was followed by one about 6 hours later.
We have received reports from readers of this newspaper who were alarmed after hearing what is now thought to be frost quakes. When they heard the first loud booms, they thought the noise was caused by either an earthquake or something hitting their house.
While horrifyingly named, the frost quakes are a natural by-product resulting from the combination of water and low temperatures. The noise is the sound of the sudden breaking of soil that’s been saturated with moisture and compressed before it cracks. The pressure is caused by water that has permeated far below the surface before it suddenly freezes because of a massive blast of cold temperature, like that which accompanied this week’s polar vortex.