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Hunkering down during blizzard

Cowtowns & Skyscrapers: Beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to moisture in the Plains.

Jennifer M. Latzke

January 12, 2024

3 Min Read
Keith Meyer of Tampa, Kan., took this photo Jan. 9 of his family’s driveway entrance to their farm
JANUARY BLIZZARD: Keith Meyer of Tampa, Kan., took this photo Jan. 9 of his family’s driveway entrance to their farm. His wife, Lori, says the 1½-mile road to Kansas Highway 15 was blown shut with snowdrifts. Meyer family

After the blizzard that covered Kansas on Jan. 8, I now understand what Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about in her “Little House” series.

Thankfully, all I had to navigate was one mini schnauzer making her way off the front porch for a bathroom break — I didn’t have to string a line to the barn to feed livestock. And I was able to stock up at the grocery store before I was snowed in, ensuring I could weather the storm with a cauldron of chili on the stove. No coffee grinder wheat flour for me.

I was able to hole up in my little house, with fuzzy socks and my dog, working from my home office and watching the storm roll in until I couldn’t see my neighbor’s house across the alley anymore.

That was truly a “Little House on the Prairie” storm system.

Do I wish that the moisture was in a different format and quantities? Of course. But after the multiyear drought we just saw across our state, and especially in southwest Kansas, beggars can’t be choosers.

We need the moisture. And we need to be able to bank every drop and every flake of the precipitation that we got in the Jan. 8-9 storm system. Dodge City had about 8 to 9 inches of snow, according to the weather service. Scott City had drifts of 7 to 8 feet tall in places, with 14 inches of total snowfall.

That goes a long way toward drought recovery. Even if it brings challenges, inconvenience and danger.

Thankfully, too, there were people out in that storm, caring for other Kansans, not able to hunker down like I could. Nurses made it to their emergency room shifts. Linemen got power lines back up and running. Law enforcement responded to slide-offs and wrecks and got people to safety. Road crews battled whiteout conditions to get roads cleared and reopened across the state. And farmers got food and bedding to their livestock through 7-foot drifts, broke ice in water tubs, and yes, brought some new calves into the world.

And I’m sure glad they took on those duties, aren’t you?

We all saw the same forecasted warnings, and we prepared. But the severity of that blizzard surprised a lot of us. Workers at the Tyson Fresh Foods plant in Holcomb couldn’t make it to their vehicles.

Look friends, life and Mother Nature are never going to play fair with us. We can try our best to prepare and plan, and something will crop up. But just like the characters in the “Little House” books, we rely on each other to get through those times when life and Mother Nature gang up on us.

We check in on neighbors and plow driveways for those who can’t do that themselves. We help strangers stuck in our community find shelter and a warm meal when we can. We pull cars out of ditches and don’t take a dime for the tractor fuel. In short, we pull together. Isn’t it funny how snow and ice can work to thaw our hearts toward each other?

The short-term forecast for the weekend looks like Mother Nature has more cold and precipitation in store for us. For those who will be out in that weather, helping neighbors and caring for livestock, we sure thank you.

The rest of us will just hunker down at home so we don’t add to the mess out there. And we’ll remind ourselves that next year’s crops will be sure thankful we had the snow and ice today.

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About the Author(s)

Jennifer M. Latzke

Editor, Kansas Farmer

Through all her travels, Jennifer M. Latzke knows that there is no place like Kansas.

Jennifer grew up on her family’s multigenerational registered Angus seedstock ranch and diversified farm just north of Woodbine, Kan., about 30 minutes south of Junction City on the edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. Rock Springs Ranch State 4-H Center was in her family’s backyard.

While at Kansas State University, Jennifer was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and a national officer for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She graduated in May 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a minor in animal science. In August 2000 Jennifer started her 20-year agricultural writing career in Dodge City, Kan., on the far southwest corner of the state.

She’s traveled across the U.S. writing on wheat, sorghum, corn, cotton, dairy and beef stories as well as breaking news and policy at the local, state and national levels. Latzke has traveled across Mexico and South America with the U.S. Wheat Associates and toured Vietnam as a member of KARL Class X. She’s traveled to Argentina as one of 10 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism. And she was part of a delegation of AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network members invited to Cuba.

Jennifer’s an award-winning writer, columnist, and podcaster, recognized by the Kansas Professional Communicators, Kansas Press Association, the National Federation of Presswomen, Livestock Publications Council, and AAEA. In 2019, Jennifer reached the pinnacle of achievements, earning the title of “Writer of Merit” from AAEA.

Trips and accolades are lovely, but Jennifer says she is happiest on the road talking to farmers and ranchers and gathering stories and photos to share with readers.

“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to be able to tell someone’s story and bring them recognition for their work on the land,” Jennifer says. “But my role is also evolving to help our more urban neighbors understand the issues our Kansas farmers face in bringing the food and fiber to their store shelves.”

She spends her time gardening, crafting, watching K-State football, and cheering on her nephews and niece in their 4-H projects. She can be found on Twitter at @Latzke.

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