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Bob Lind, Published March 10 2013

Lind: Moorhead man recalls horseback ride through blizzard in 1944

A month ago, the Fargo-Moorhead region was hit with a major winter storm that created its share of problems, primarily in terms of getting around.

But that was nothing new for longtime area residents like Manuel Jerger, Moorhead.

Manuel, now 87, writes about a blizzard that hit the area in February 1944. It was a storm that led to a rugged horseback ride.

He was 19 and living with his family on a farm southwest of Barnesville, Minn., when that two-day blizzard struck.

All area roads were blocked. It took almost a week to open them, Manuel says, because the Minnesota Highway Department had only one rotary plow in the area.

Earlier, Manuel’s father had ordered 1,200 baby chicks from a hatchery in southern Minnesota. They were supposed to have been shipped by rail, then brought to the Jerger farm by the rural mail carrier. But three days after the storm ended, the chicks still hadn’t shown up. So Manuel’s dad told him to saddle up the horse and go into town to find out what had happened to them.

“I started out after dinner on the seven mile trip to Barnesville on horseback,” Manuel writes. “There were places that were belly deep in snow for the horse to go through.

“I was two miles from town and my horse got tired out, so I had to get off and lead him.

“As I entered town and went down Main Street to the depot, with snow two feet deep or more, people were looking out front store windows wondering who this guy was and where he came from.”

At the depot, the agent, named Meisner, told Manuel the chicks had arrived the morning before and they were doing just fine. That was due, Manuel says, to Meisner, who called the McDunn International Harvester machinery store because he knew there was equipment there that would keep the chicks alive.

Sure, the folks there said they’d take them in, and did.

So Manuel went over to the McDunn shop and sure enough, there were the employees feeding and watering the chicks, having gotten feed from the Dewerd Mill.

So, thanks to several caring folks, the chicks survived the storm and eventually made it safely to the Jerger farm.

Of course, there have been some changes in Barnesville since 1944, Manuel says: The Deward Mill is now J&S Farmers Mill and the McDunn equipment store is now the location of the city hall and library.

But the story “is an early memory of mine,” Manuel writes. “It should give the younger generation an idea of how we lived and survived back then.”


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to (701) 241-5487; or email blind@forumcomm.com