The weather is always a little unpredictable in March. So going outside for a hike isn’t always uppermost on most North Dakotans’ minds, around this time of year.
However, it was reported in 1911 that one man decided this time of year was a perfect time to go outside for a walk.
James Kinney, who was “on the shady side” of seventy-seven, started off early. He left from his son’s home, located on the Sheyenne river, shortly after 8 in the morning.
Come two o’clock, six hours and over sixteen miles later, Kinney was almost to Sheldon.
If that’s a surprise, then consider that the length of time it took him to get that distance was probably due to the “the soft loose snow” on the ground, which “somewhat retarded (his) progress.”
Of course, the March weather of that particular year was dry and warm. The Sheldon Progress reported that in the last thirty years, only in 1889, 1902 and 1910 were the average temperatures warmer than they were in 1911. On March 24, the hottest day that month, temperatures even climbed up to 65.
That was a nice change from the multiple days of below-zero weather recorded in February.
However, Kinney’s trip was probably not due only to the nice March weather. He was on his way to the Soldier’s Home at Lisbon, where he had wintered for the past several years. He said he liked spending time there. Of the approximately 35 old soldiers who were at the Soldiers Home, Kinney was third oldest.
Kinney stopped and spent the night in Sheldon. That afternoon and evening, he regaled several of the “young fellows” with stories of his old adventures. He had been a stage coach driver at the outbreak of the Civil War, but he joined rank afterward as a wagoner, and worked his way up to Chief wagoner.
Kinney left the next day to complete his journey. The correspondent of the Sheldon Progress reported: “When seen the next morning by the writer, he was chipper and the fatiguing walk of the day before seemed to have little effect on him.”
It was a “remarkable feat”—but also, perhaps, par for the course, for him.
Now, we tend to rely on our cars rather than our legs. Just remember: that little old soldier so ready to go to his Home did so on his own two feet—traveling for sixteen miles, and six hours of time.
Don’t be afraid to March into spring.
By Sarah Walker
The Sheldon Progress and Sheldon Enterprise, March 10, 1911
The Sheldon Progress and Sheldon Enterprise, April 7, 1911, p.1
The Sheldon Progress and Sheldon Enterprise, March 3, 1911