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Teacher in Trouble
By Mrs. Joe Hafla, Cohagen
From 'The Truth About Montana Winters', (p) 1976, Miles City Star
The temperature had been just above zero all day, with a stuff southeasterly breeze. It was December 16, 1964. About dark the wind switched to the north and picked up speed. The temperature started to drop and it began to snow.

About 7 p.m. the young teacher, who lived at the school about a mile and a half from our ranch, called to ask my husband how dangerous it would be to turn up the oil heater to the highest setting. He told her to turn it up, but if the burner pot or the stove pipe got red hot, she'd better turn it down some.

The school house and attached teacherage was quite old and had been moved a few times so they were drafty when it blew so hard. They were hated with a large oil heater in the school house and a small one in the teacherage. Cooking and baking were done on a small electric range.

Feeling sorry for anything that had to be outdoors, we went to bed about 10 p.m. The temperature was already 30 below and the wind was terrible. Goodness knows what the wind chill factor was and it was snowing hard, too.

In about an hour the phone rang. It was the teacher. The oil heater had quit burning so she had wrapped herself in her electric blanket (turned on high) and turned the oven on. Now she was totally dependent on electricity to keep her from freezing to death and we all knew that it could fail any time. My husband told her to keep wrapped up and that he and our eldest son would try to get over there.

None of the head-bold heaters in our vehicles had been plugged in, but one of the pickups had come home from Miles City about 6:30 that evening so we thought it would start -- it wouldn't. Neither would anything else, so the men plugged in heaters and kept trying until one pickup started. It seemed to take forever.

The air was so thick with snow that my husband was afraid of driving off the road. He would stop when there was no visibility and move ahead slowly. It was more than half an hour when he called to say they had made it to the school. The phone there was so cold that he had to turn the dial back by hand before he could dial the next number.

It was 45 minutes later that I saw their headlights coming into the yard.

All through that night and the next day that crazy, cold wind howled, buy miraculously, the electrical lines managed to stay up.

My husband checked the stove the next day. A little water in the carburetor (just a few inches up from the burner pot) had frozen, cutting off the fuel supply.

I think the good old-fashioned pot-bellied stove that had previously heated the school would have been very welcome that night.


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