Their plan for the paper was to include more photos in the weekly newspaper’s coverage of local events. True to plan, Gary shot, developed and published three photos of the stranded bus in that week’s issue.
Jane wrote three detailed stories about the stranded bus and the rescue of the students, taking up most of the front page. It turned out to be such a big story that national and international media outlets would contact locals for interviews.
On the day of the blizzard, Jane recalls, the typographer and his wife, who served as babysitter for the Riba children, made it to Chokio from their home in Morris, but had to turn around and head for home just before the blizzard hit.
Stranded bus driver Clayton Kolling “made a call that he needed help. So the townspeople got together,” Gary said. “We knew exactly where the bus was.” Gary was among the group of rescuers.
“We decided to have two vehicles go to the west edge of the section [in which the bus was stalled] and two vehicles go to the east side of the section. And that’s what we did,” Gary recalled.
“The temperatures were like 30 below, and the wind was around 70 miles per hour, so it probably brought the wind chill to about 70 below,” he added.
Despite the frigid conditions, the rescuers knew another part of the plan was critical to the success of the mission.
“We had ropes on the left and right of the truck and Cat, and two people at a time would go outside and guide each vehicle,” he said.
“We could be out there only two to three minutes before we needed to switch off,” Gary remembers. He suffered frostbite on his wrists. Over the years, he has noticed his lungs “don’t like the cold.”
Gary recalls that the tractor and the telephone truck (in which he was a passenger) arrived a bit before the Cat and the backup bus.
“We gave blankets and candy to the kids when we arrived,” he said.
When the backup bus arrived, the children were transferred from the cold, damp bus to the warmer one. On the way back to town, the drivers were able to follow the tracks made by the vehicles on the way out to the stalled bus.
“It started to drift in, but they could see enough ,” he added.
Gary said the relative youth of most of the rescuers helped the situation. “When you’re young, you look at it as a challenge. You gotta work at it to get ‘em. Friends of ours had children on the bus. You HAVE to get there. It was quite an adventure.”
After the auspicious start to their newspaper career in Chokio, life quickly returned to normal.
Even then Chokio was shrinking and advertising was down, Gary said. They kept at it two and a half years, supplementing their income with Gary driving bus and Jane cutting hair. Later the Herman paper made an offer to purchase the newspaper and the Ribas sold the Chokio Review.