Prose Fancies

The Kiote March 1901

Prose Fancies


            We of Nebraska know that those down-easterners often pity us, especially in the winter time, but it is so much pity wasted.  We are even more fortunate than they.

            In the first place they haven’t so much variety as we.  They look for butter-cups and maple-sap at a certain date, and they find them.  They expect a snowstorm early in the fall, and it comes according to rule.  No wonder they get to believe in prognostications.  Any almanac there tells the truth.

            And such snow-storms as they have.  The flakes come sifting down from a little patch of sky up between the hills until everything is buried three feet deep on a level.  Roads are impassable, and walking impossible for weeks and months.  No one thinks of a warm spell until the time comes for the proverbial January thaw – then there is mud and slush until the February freeze begins.

            If Whittier had lived in Nebraska he might have written “Snow-Bound” just as he did, for by way of variety we do have that species of snow-storm, when the soft, fluffy snow lies on the top of fence-posts and makes a “smooth white mound” of the ”brush-pile,” or would, if we had brush-piles.

            But Whittier was human, and he would have caught the spirit of the rule rather than of the exception.  By the time he had seen the wind with one puff snatch the “loose-flung coat” and “high cocked hat” from the bridle-post and strip the ghostly clothes-line posts into dark nakedness, he would have set his song to a different pitch.  It would have had a sky full of solid whirlwind – a beating, roaring, deafening wind that stirs up all of the points of the compass together, and bores old half-icy drifts to the very ground.

            It seems to be in human nature to desire variety, to want the unexpected, and Nebraska can please the most exacting.  One year we thought we were to have a late fall and a mild winter – some Indian sign, I suppose.  It snowed the first week in September, and in the middle of May eight or ten inches fell; there was snow every month between, and once in January the thermometer went down to forty below.

            Another time we expected a severe winter, because the one before had been so mild, but that year there were violets the week before Christmas.

            Eastern winds are freakish things, full of mischief.  They snatch off hats, flirt up handsful of dust from the roadside and whisk loose papers around corners.  They seem elfish, untrustworthy.  There is something sublime about a Nebraska wind.  On and on it goes with a sweep that is grand in its scope and steadfastness.  Sometimes it disports itself – displays its power by lifting up tons of earth and hollowing out caverns in the sandhills.  Sometimes its compelling power will drive great tumble-weeds over the prairie for miles and miles with a dignified roll.  All day and all night one may hear it come steadily at the side of the house and roar over the chimney-top.  There is nothing weak, nothing fitful about it – it is strong, enduring, unceasing, until at last it beats itself into the mind as an emblem of eternal force and truth.


                                                                                                May Hopper, The Kiote, March 1901