Right before the last snowstorm, I went to the store to see if all the unprepared, panicky newcomers had bought up all the bread, milk and toilet paper. They had, which was annoying because I needed to stock up on bread, milk and toilet paper for the storm.
The annoyance — or, most of it, anyway — dissipated as I considered what our forebears went through in the early days of the state.
Now: If we are down to 10 rolls of toilet paper, I have to make a trip to the store.
Then: If they ran out of newspapers and Sears catalog pages, they had to start whittling the kernels off the corn cobs.
Now: It’s that I will be so hungry after walking along behind the snowblower for 10 minutes that I will want to make a massive sandwich with meats, cheeses and fresh vegetables grown half a continent away but still crisp and delicious. Better add bread to the shopping list. The store had better have the organic rye or I’ll have to stop at the specialty store, but that’s a hassle because that place doesn’t accept payments from a phone — you actually have to stick the card in the machine, like Caveman Ogg trading a pretty shell for a pointed stick.
Then: They made sure that they had enough hardtack beef and pickled beets to last until the thaw. But first, they had to grind the wheat to make flour. The work kept them warm, but the sweat froze so quickly it made a cracking noise as their limbs moved.
Now: Oh, we need milk, the kids might want hot chocolate. Better add a gallon or two to the list, along with some orange juice — no pulp! I hate pulp, it’s like someone put a sponge in a blender.
Then: They hiked out into the deep snow to find the cows. When they finally got three of them back to the barn, they went out to seek the fourth. The poor creature was dead.
Now: Traffic on the way back from Target was awful. At one intersection, I sat through two lights and nothing moved. Worse yet, it was Pledge Week on the radio, so I had to sit through that.
Then: They feared for their own demise in the blinding storm. They had to use a knife to open the dead cow and spend the night inside. It was warm, but they slept fitfully. As they tried to sleep in the belly of the cow they thought of their favorite hymns, and that gave them strength.
Now: No school? Again? Look, I get it; the buses are having trouble. But the kids are stir-crazy after a few hours in front of the widescreen, and maybe I can get a moment’s peace by letting them use the computer or iPad. That buys maybe two hours, if we’re lucky.
Then: As the second week of being snowbound draws to a close, they no longer can do their daily lessons using the coal to write on the shovel because they needed every remaining lump of coal for the fire. Mother pretended to prick her finger while sewing, so that the blood could be used to write arithmetic problems on a piece of birch bark.
Now: I’m so tired of the struggle that I’m looking at Expedia pages for cheap flights anywhere warm.
Then: They spent a merry night perusing railroad timetables and dreaming of adventure — two days to Chicago! Such a world of marvels!
Now: You can tell we became a state in the month of May or the state motto would be “Why do I live here?”
Then: What he said.