Imagine yourself in a blizzard so thick and cold and blinding that you could not see your hands right in front of you. Such blizzards were common 150 years ago on the upper great plains. Without much for houses and trees, the wind blew the snow with such force that the little ice crystals were more like little knives making it hard to keep one’s eyes open even if there was something to see. Thus, to get safely from the house to the barn, farmers often hung a rope between the two, to not get lost. It was literally a lifeline. Otherwise, one wrong turn and perhaps nothing would stop you from wandering across the frozen prairie.
As a sixth generation South Dakotan, I cannot imagine some of the hardships my forefathers had to endure to survive. How did they feed themselves when the rains did not come, or when the fires did? How did they heat the house when the wood or coal had run out? How did they fight the boredom of months in a single room, not to mention the isolation?
There are many who still face those questions. Farming still carries great risks with drought, floods, or financial stress. There is the chance of failure, of losing the family farm, of choosing the wrong crops or the wrong time to plant in unpredictable markets with trade wars, changing weather patterns, and other factors. One little mistake may ruin a million-dollar piece of equipment or result in a lifetime disabling accident.