It was probably the winter of 1948 or 49. My family had moved from the plains of Kansas to a farm near the Platte River in Buffalo County, Nebraska. We were up in the hills north of the Platte between Elm Creek and Kearney. The Platte River part of the Oregon Trail ran between us and the river. I was absorbing and cataloging frontier history even then. My next youngest sister and I went to school at Midway school house. It was a nice country school with two classrooms and a basement. It still exists at the intersection of Midway and Odessa roads. However it is now a nice farm house with a modern farmstead around it. I cannot remember a Christmas program at that school. I am sure we had them, every school did. At that young age we seem to need something special to tweak our memory.
And I do have a memory to share. My family had been invited to a Christmas program at a neighboring school several miles east of our community. It was a different world back then. Rural areas had no electricity and no communication except radios powered by six volt car batteries. Weather was reported on as it happened. We went to the school program. We watched skits, listened to students sing Christmas carols and thoroughly enjoyed the evening. Suddenly people realized there was a full blown blizzard in progress outside. You don’t mess with a Nebraska blizzard. You get to a shelter and wait it out.
The Nielsen family lived near the school and they invited several families to stay with them. They were family friends and they were probably the ones that invited us to the Christmas program. My folks’ 1936 Chevy sedan was helpless in a foot of snow and visibility was down to a few feet. The folks gladly accepted their invitation.
The Nielsens owned a farm and ranch operation. They lived in a large frame house surrounded by various livestock buildings. When everybody got inside they started getting out cots and beds. It was a typical farm house, some rooms were heated and others were not. The women and small children would sleep in the heated rooms and the men and boys would sleep in the unheated rooms. Mrs. Nielsen went to her wardrobes and trunks producing sheets, blankets, and quilts. Dad and I drew a tall leather covered settee that folded out into a bed. We had sheets and a blanket, but by that time she was to the bottom of the trunk.
She pulled out a hair-covered lap robe, obviously left over from the horse and buggy days. It was a tanned hide with a quilted ticking liner that smelled slightly of mothballs. Dad and I slept warm as toast under it. We awoke to the sound of female chatter and the smell of pancakes and bacon frying in the pan. It had stopped snowing. . .
I thought it was a buffalo robe and called it that. In later years Dad said he thought it was a horse hide. I have never seen a horse with that much curly hair. Buffalo robe or horse hide robe, it gave an eight-year-old boy a Christmas snow storm memory and warm feeling for good neighbors along the Sundown Trail . . .
Merry Christmas! I hope the weather is just right for you wherever you are.