A LITTLE SNOWFALL never hurt anyone. True? People in North Dakota could give you the answer after 20 inches slammed part of that state last weekend.

A video posted by a resort in Devils Lake might have said it all, at least for a few people who simply made the best of the situation. It was captioned “What do you do when you come to Devils Lake on a duck hunting trip and get stuck in a snowstorm? Make your own fun.”

In that case, one man made his own fun by climbing atop the topper on his pickup truck to do a belly flop in a deep snowdrift. Did I mention he was wearing shorts and a T-shirt when he did it? Having been through what was then labeled as the worst October blizzard in history some years ago on a duck hunting trip in North Dakota, I can seriously empathize with the guy.

I didn’t do any swan dives or belly flops in the snow, which was easily deep enough to do so. But the first morning of the blizzard, my brother and I did try to make our own fun.

The two of us, along with my dad, were the only three hunters left at the little white house on the prairie when the snowstorm hit. The rest of my gang had left the day before.

Snow or no snow, my brother, Mike, and I decided by golly we were in North Dakota to hunt ducks so by golly we were going duck hunting. We took my truck and inside of a quarter-mile from the house I was mighty glad to have four-wheel drive and that there were raised sod shoulders along the road to keep me out of the ditch. 

We stopped at our first favorite pond to see what we would see. What I saw as I slogged through thick cattails to the edge of the pond was about 200 ducks all huddled up to the lee side of the pond, sheltered somewhat from sustained 40 mph winds.

When 10 ducks spied me and flushed, I pulled up on them. I pulled about 6 feet in front of the lead mallard and shot. The water was slashed by BBs about 10 feet behind the last trailing duck; hmm. I pulled up again, led the first duck in the string by about 20 feet and touched off another shot. A duck about six birds back in the flock dropped; hmm.

There would be no catching up to the wind-driven floating duck. Instead, I slogged to the far side of the pond and found it drifted against the cattails. I looked across the pond and saw the remaining ducks still huddled on the lee side. I decided I wasn’t going to be the one to make them get up in the snow and wind, and so did my brother. We let them huddle in peace.

We stopped once more and decided to sneak a pond 100 yards north of the road; bad decision. The snow and sleet felt like a million tiny darts stabbing me in the face as we crossed an open field. We should have known when we were licked and given up, but no, duck hunters are duck hunters through thick and thin, rain and sun, even through a blizzard.

We sneaked the small pond, which was full of bluebills and went to work when bunch by bunch they flushed. Having no clue as to how much lead I needed, I shot about 15 times in the next frenzied minute or so as ducks wheeled up into the wind and then, tried to circle back to the shelter of the lee side. I never touched a feather; neither did Mike.

Looking at each other, we decided maybe it was time to admit we were licked. When we got back to the house, it was down to about 50 degrees inside, since the power was out and the house was heated with electric baseboard heat. We would have tucked our tails between our legs and headed home right then, but on the battery-powered radio the announcers were saying “Uh, uh.” All highways were closed. Sleet had turned to ice on blacktop.

We pulled blankets up to our chins and settled in for a long wait. It turned out to be a two-day wait. In the house there were two books to read which Dad and Mike selfishly gobbled up. I think they were purposely reading about a page every 20 minutes just so I wouldn’t get my hands on them. 

During the next 48 hours, I read a half-dozen 3-year-old “Dakota Outdoors,” “Ducks Unlimited” and “North Dakota Outdoors” magazines cover to cover about five times. I even walked to the post office, which curiously remained open during its regular hours even though it was impossible for any mail to move in or out all during the blizzard.

There the nice lady behind the counter allowed me to go through the throwaway basket which did contain a “TV Guide” magazine and two flyers from Devils Lake. From the TV Guide magazine I discovered who shot J.R. and that Betty White was indeed one of the nicest ladies in all of Hollywood, along with several other TV tidbits I never knew I needed to know.

From the flyers I learned that Podunk Hardware in Devils Lake had two-by-fours on sale at 74 cents each, that Herman over in Starkweather had a 1943 combine for sale and that the Bisbee church ladies were having a Hunters’ Feast Friday night.

When the storm finally gave up and the roads were declared open two days later, the house was down to 38 degrees inside. We were tired of subsisting on cold, leftover chili, duck gravy and tuna casserole. We had quit bothering to close the refrigerator door as it was colder in the kitchen than it was inside the refrigerator.

We cleaned up the house, loaded the trucks and headed out. Unfortunately for Mike, he discovered his four-wheel drive had died an unknown death somewhere along the way so to get to the highway three blocks away I had to push him with my truck through ruts left by the first person game enough to blast a way out on the town streets.

From there it was 60 miles of 25 mph driving to Devils Lake. At least three dozen vehicles were in the ditch along the way. Amazingly, 5 miles east of Devils Lake we hit the blizzard boundary and from then on it was clear sailing all the way home.

We had survived the great Dakota blizzard. Next time, I might just have to practice my belly flops in the snow technique.