Feb. 26, 1984. The weather forecast was for a chance of flurries and a high of 34. A couple of hours before dawn that Sunday morning the snow started falling. By the time the big wet flakes stopped around mid-day Tuesday, the result was (and still is) the most significant snow event of my lifetime. (No. 2 on my list of lifetime all-time weather events). Snowfall totals ranged from 24 inches in Maries County to 34 inches in Gasconade County.
Ten-foot drifts (I have photos) shut down Highway 63 at the Rolla Airport at Vichy. Not that it mattered, because Highway 28 between Belle and Vichy was impassable for two days. Power went in and out, but the temperature never dropped much below freezing. Otherwise the snow event would probably have been deadly as well as deep.
At that time Kelly and I were on-site caretakers for a 350-acre cattle farm — Pine Corners — in southern Gasconade County off Elk Head Road. We managed to get to Belle (about 10 miles away) before everything was completely impassable, and it was three days before we were able to return, but only with the aid of a nearby farmer and his tractor. The drifts were consistently knee to waist-high. On our return to Pine Corners and the long, difficult trudge to the barn, we discovered that several of the cows had successfully calved.
Feb. 26, 1985. That night, Kelly gave birth to Kishia Chantel, our first-born, at St. Mary’s Health Center in Jefferson City. We instantly became rich beyond our wildest dreams. Kishia. Our baby.
Kelly had been in labor the better part of four days. I gently lowered Kishia into a warm bath. Kelly, completely exhausted, asked if Kishia had “all 10 fingers, all 10 ‘toeses’ and all 10 noses?”
“She’s perfect,” I said. “Only one nose.”
“That’s good,” Kelly said, mustering all the energy she had.
Later, in the wee hours of Feb. 27, I drove home to Belle and smoked — or tried to smoke — a celebratory cigar.
I very nearly caught myself on fire. While I was driving.