A Buried Tree

In a Forty-Below Winter

By Max Jenkins

My Dad, Wes Jenkins, became part-owner of an auto sales company in Grangeville in the spring of 1948, when I was in third grade. He was always a good salesman, and he also was a caring person. One of his friends, a hog farmer, wrecked his pickup and needed another one to keep his farm operating. He didn’t have the cash for a down payment but he had a sow and a litter of piglets, which Dad took instead of the money. It could have been several litters, I don’t remember. I know it was a lot of pigs.

The hog farmer delivered the pigs to the barn at our house on the west side of town in late fall—just before the arrival of what became known as the notorious winter of 1948-49 [see IDAHO magazine, “When Hell Froze Over,” by Loy Ann Bell, February 2009 and “The First, Worst Winter,” by Erma Jean Loveland, March 2014].

On a Saturday afternoon in November, I went with Dad to Fenn, eight miles away, to pick up some hog feed from a farmer friend. It turned cold, started snowing, and evolved into a blizzard. We got stuck on the highway along with many others, but finally made it to the farmer’s ranch late in the evening.

Our hospitable hosts fed us and provided us with beds. Dad called his friend, George Klein, asking him to look after Mom and to feed and water the hogs. It snowed and snowed. The bitter prairie winds picked up the snow, redistributing it into mountainous snowdrifts five and six feet high. Visibility was nil. The snowplows, no match for the storm, were stranded on the highway.

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