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Winter Stories in the Dakotas

Posted 3/20/17 (Mon)

2017’s January “BookMarks”
Winter Stories in the Dakotas
2017 is well on its way to hosting a legendary Dakota winter.
First clue? Maybe when days after winter officially began, the entire state of North Dakota was hit with a Christmas blizzard that virtually closed all roads and stranded Christmas visitors for at least two days. I was relieved the holiday guests snowed in at my house were people who got along.  Thankfully we parted on good terms once the highways were cleared.
This has been a harsh reality check after last year’s mild weather might have lulled some into thinking Northern Plains winters are not as extreme as they once were. We are just weeks into January and recent record snowfall and too many below-zero days are creating more stories for the ages.
Our stories of enduring winter storms define our culture and personalities. Reading gripping accounts in books like Ole Rolvaag’s “Giants in the Earth” and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie,” bring a sense of camaraderie to those of us still living through winters. I was probably in grade school when I read Bess Streeter Aldrich’s “A Lantern in Her Hand,” but still I remember how the brutal storms faced by those Nebraska pioneer women disturbed me.
Dealing with the elements is a recurrent theme in the works of Lauraine Snelling.  A collection of her first novellas centered in the Dakotas are found in Lauraine’s Dakota Stories I  and Dakota Stories II They are DBN’s January picks for our new “BookMarks” feature.
Told from the fictional town of Soldahl, North Dakota, in the early 1900s weather is woven into the challenges faced by five inspiring pioneer women. A blizzard in the Dakota December novella helps one of these women, Johanna Carlson, find a new direction in her life. It opens with a blizzard cancelling Christmas Eve services, and the description of snow blocking doors and blowing through window cracks affirm a universal bond from season to season.
Compared to these pioneer stories, I am thankful our winter experiences today are tolerated with furnaces in warm homes, snowblowers in garages and snow tires on our cars.
Here’s hope savoring good books helps us all survive this winter!  



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