Potato Coffee
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When a blizzard hits a remote area today, people are not nearly so isolated as they used to be. Correspondent Curt Nickisch reports how one family in the Great Plains got through the winter of 1908.

A few years after Helma Westerberg Elofson was born in 1893, her family homesteaded in the then young state of South Dakota. They settled in Haakon County, a hundred miles from the nearest railroad.

ELOFSON: At one time it started to snow the sixth of November and it snowed a little every day until the sixth of March.

She remembers the winter of 1908 in this interview recorded twenty-five years ago.

ELOFSON: We had so much snow that winter that no one could get around, and if you wanted to get anyplace you had to walk.

Her father only once made the nine-mile trek through the snow to the nearest store - only to discover that the supply of groceries the freight trains brought west was already gone.

Without being able to restock, the first thing the family ran out of was kerosene. They had to spend the long winter nights in complete darkness.

ELOFSON: Then another thing was we run out of coffee. And my mother was a very good cook. So she had washed the potato peelings real good, and then she put them in the oven and dried them until they got real brown, and that made the best coffee. Oh, that was just delicious.

She said it was a welcome variation on the usual potato dishes she and her family relied on that winter.

I'll try to sneak some of that into producer, Margaret Landsman's mug sometime. Curt Nickisch sips his coffee and watches snowstorms in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The Weather Notebook is a production of the Mt. Washington Observatory and is supported generously by Subaru of America, the beauty of all wheel drive.