Sure, it’s only August, neighbors, and winter hopefully is a long way off. But despite that, today Neighbors is going to cool off by reminiscing about the blizzard that hit the Fargo-Moorhead region in March 1966.

Earlier this year, this column ran a picture of a Great Northern train (shown here) snowed in for six days at Pillsbury, N.D., north of Valley City, because of that storm.

Mary Atchison, Moorhead, then emailed Neighbors that she enjoyed stories about storms of the past, but she especially enjoyed this one because, she wrote, “My dad, Howard Morris, was the engineer on that train.

“I’m sure he had a couple of tough days out there in the snow, worried about his crew, the train and himself.

“He told of plowing the snow up to the train’s windshield.”

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Standing on top of a snowed-in train March 6, 1966, at Pillsbury, N.D. Special to The Forum
Standing on top of a snowed-in train March 6, 1966, at Pillsbury, N.D. Special to The Forum

And then Vicki (Larson) Neuharth, Bismarck, wrote, “My dad, Dale Larson, and I are on the right hand side of the picture.

“Dad was the depot agent in Pillsbury for about 28 years. I was a 15-year-old high school student at Pillsbury High School at the time of this storm.”

The original column mentioned that the train crew bought food in Pillsbury’s small grocery store, and the store’s owner cooked their food for them on a hot plate. That store owner, Vicki says, was the late Clarence Keyes.

But trains have been snowed in by winter storms in other years, too. Darrel Salberg, Gwinner, N.D., writes that a snowstorm in 1961 left the daily train stranded and buried under snow near Hastings, N.D., south of Valley City.

“A reporter from the Fargo Forum came out and took a picture of the Spring Creek Lutheran minister and several young boys in town pretending to shove the train out of the snowbank,” Darrel says.

When The Forum published that picture (which is no longer available), “the boys were pretty excited to make the paper,” he says, adding, “I grew up in Hastings and was one of those boys pushing!”

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Long walk

A massive March blizzard in 1966 killed 16 people in the Dakotas and Minnesota. Special to The Forum
A massive March blizzard in 1966 killed 16 people in the Dakotas and Minnesota. Special to The Forum

Going back to the ‘66 blizzard, here’s an email from Marian Johnson, Oakes, N.D., who remembers that storm well.

“We lived in Brampton, N.D., at the time and were housebound for three days with a raging snowstorm outside,” Marian writes.

“But we kept warm and had enough to eat.

“When the storm ended, my husband, who worked with my dad and uncle on the farm, decided he would walk out to the farm (5 1/2 miles), as he knew they would need help.

“Walking was not too bad, as the snow was hard and supported him as he walked.

“After the snow and wind had subsided, there was a huge snowbank in the street in front of our house. Our daughter Kathy managed to get to the top and could see all of the town and all around, too.

“An older couple in town were completely snowbound in their house and neighbors had to shovel them out.

“It took a while to get the streets open and groceries for the local store and the mail to get in again, and trains were stuck on the track in many areas.

“Yes, quite the memory of a North Dakota blizzard,” Marian says.

Wintry poem

But that and other blizzards have hit Minnesota, too, which led Hal Sillers, Moorhead, to send in this poem he composed:

“Wind Component”

The NOAA expert in TV meteorology

Prognasticated with new terminology.

He opined that the recent snow event

Would surely have a wind component.

As I looked out ‘cross drive and yard,

The driven snow piled high and hard,

I could see just what he really meant

About the storm that Ma Nature sent.

Get out boots, coat, gloves and blower,

I didn’t ever think I’d miss the mower.

As I hit the banks, hardly made a dent,

The shear bolt on the drive shaft went.

Used a tool to fix it with frozen fingers,

Where’s that bolt? Frustration lingers!

Drive back and forth until fuel is spent,

For heaven’s sake, now the auger’s bent!

Trudged through the snow for the fuel;

Back to the tractor puffing like a mule.

Although these problems do not relent,

Of living through them I do not repent.

You don’t have to be a weather wizard

To know it’s just a Minnesota blizzard.

Another story

In conclusion to this wintry column, here’s another story out of the ‘66 blizzard.

Judy Jacobson, Fargo, writes that the storm occurred at a key time in her and her ex-husband’s lives.

“We were joining the Peace Corps,” Judy writes, “and we were supposed to be in Los Angeles on March 4.

“On that day, my father drove us to the Great Northern depot in Fargo, following a snowplow.

(We lived on 13th Avenue South where a Whale of a Wash is now). We caught the last train out of Fargo and made it to Minneapolis.

“The plane was to leave for LA soon, so the cab driver rushed us to the airport.

“Then I realized I had left a suitcase in the train depot. We gave the cab driver $10 to go back to the depot, after leaving us at the airport, to get the suitcase, return to the airport and put it on a plane going to LA. And it actually made it later that day! (This was 53 years ago…)

“We were dressed in winter coats and clothes, so we got quite the looks when we arrived at the apartment in LA, where we were to have Peace Corps training. Other volunteers were there in swimsuits at the pool.

“There were seven married couples in our Peace Corps group,” Judy says. “We had to share a one-bedroom apartment with another newly married couple for three months of training.

“I was the only registered nurse in our health group,” she says, “and I was pregnant. But after much discussion and rule changes, we were allowed to go overseas and live in a village.

“My husband was an engineer helping with water development and I was at a clinic teaching and as assisting midwife.”

Judy’s baby girl was born there, which was exciting for the villagers because most of them had never seen a white baby.

So this story, which began in that 1966 blizzard, ended up, Judy says, “working out fantastically.”

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 701-241-5487 or email