A Snowy Day at the Beacon


In Bismarck, North Dakota, the snow season starts around October and runs well through April. Some of the heaviest snowfalls can occur later in the season.

So, on a March Saturday in 1955, there was the feeling of snow in the air. It's familiar to anyone who lives in a northerly climate. You didn't need a weather forecast to know that it was going to start snowing later that day, and probably quite a lot.


But the threat of bad weather didn't stop Sal Westerman from walking over to the Beacon Cafe at 1 PM for the regular Saturday session of the Coffee and Cake Checker Club. There would be plenty of Deana's hot coffee and some freshly-baked treats. Deana ran the Beacon and her baked goods had no match for miles around.

Turnout was a little less than usual. Just three of the boys (who were all over 50) were there: Dan, Wayne, and Mike, who, like Sal, showed up just about every single week.

"Too bad the others aren't here," Sal said, "for I've got a nice one from Brian this week." Brian, in St. Louis, was one of Sal's checker pen pals.

"Maybe they were scared off," Wayne said. "Brian's problems can be pretty tough."

"Oh, it's just the weather," Sal said. "But I want to know what kind of treats you boys will be buying me when you can't win this one."


Deana, stationed behind her counter and ever alert, piped up, "Fresh pecan bars. Just the right thing to make you feel warm and comfy on a snowy day." She smiled, knowing she'd be selling quite a few servings before the afternoon was out.

"Well, there you go," Sal said. "I just love pecan bars. Might even let you buy me two."

Dan laughed. "We'll see about that," he said. "Now set 'em up and let's have a look."

The first few snowflakes were starting to fall outside as Sal set up the problem. But none of the boys noticed, as they were immediately engrossed in the following position.


White to Play and Win


Sometimes Sal only gave the boys five or ten minutes to solve a problem. But problems from Brian or Ed (Sal's Pennsylvania pen pal) were tougher, and although Sal liked to win, he was always fair about things.

After about an hour, Deana said, "It's snowing pretty hard now. Might have to close up early. I live over in Mandan and driving is going to be tough." Mandan was a smaller town just across the Missouri River from Bismarck.

But no one heard her. Concentration was too deep. And then, Dan spoke up. "It's kind of hard to find., but I've got it."

"Is that right?" Sal said. "Show me."

Is Dan about to win pecan bars for all of the boys? How would you do? Hopefully you're not in the middle of a snowstorm, and can give today's problem a good effort. Don't flake out or drift away; plow ahead and when you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution and the conclusion of our story.null


Problem and solution are by master problem composer Brian Hinkle.

7-2---A 32-23 22-17* 21-14 2-6 10-15---B 6-10 14-7 8-11 7-16 20-27 White Wins---C.

A---There is no way for White to save his extra piece, for instance 8-11 32-23 11-15 21-25 and White still loses a man. Another, longer try by White also doesn't work: 27-24 19x28 20-24 10-14 22-17 14-18 17-14 18-22 7-3 22-25 8-11 25-30 11-16 30-26 3-7 26-23 and White's temporary grip on the double corner just doesn't provide enough to win.

B---No option. White is forcing the play at every move.

C---Brian comments: "This win is well-hidden because there are a number of tempting ways that white can try that almost work but only draw."

Dan smiled. "There you have it," he said. "Now, pecan bars all around, Sal!"

Sal smiled too. "Great work, Dan. I'm happy to buy." And indeed, being a good sport, Sal was. He got up and went over to Deana's counter. To his surprise, five little paper bags were lined up in front of her.


"Pecan bars to go," she said. "A bag for each of you, and one for me. I'm closing. Right now."

"But it's only three o'clock ..." Sal objected.

"Look outside," Deana replied, glancing toward the door.


Snow was already half a foot deep and more was coming down at a tremendous rate. Visibility couldn't have been more than twenty feet.

"Oh... " Sal said.

All of the boys were looking now, too. "Yep, we'd all better head out or we'll be stuck here all night, eating pecan bars," Wayne said.

"Watch what you wish for," Deana replied. "Okay, let's go. It's going to be a long drive for me over to Mandan."

"Sal, you better not try to walk," Wayne said. "I'll give you a ride."

Sal nodded. He didn't like to have his Saturdays at the Beacon cut short, but there wasn't much choice.

"Thanks, Wayne," he said. "See the rest of you next week. And stay safe out there, Deana."

Everyone, now clad in their winter gear, made their way outside.

They all made it safely home, but it snowed well into the night and by Sunday morning, there were 18 inches on the ground. Bismarck would be at a standstill until well into Monday.


03/28/20 - Category: Fiction -Printer friendly version-
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