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Springtime on the ranch

— This year's spring is reminiscent of those past, when I was a girl, growing up on the ranch on Morapos Creek.

Granted, children often remember things being bigger than they actually were, but because the ranch is at a higher altitude than Craig, we did get a lot of snow in winter. (Morapos still does).

Some winters, like in 1949, we were snowbound all winter. Dad went out, when it was possible, to get groceries and other supplies.

Luckily, the country school was within walking distance.

So my sister, Charlotte, and I looked forward to spring - to get rid of all the clothes that we had to wear, for one thing.

When we were little girls, we wore dresses to school, so long stockings were necessary to keep our legs warm. Besides that, we wore long underwear, coats, snow pants, hats, gloves and boots that were very, very heavy.

By the time sister Darlene was old enough to go to school, Mom apparently thought long stockings were no longer necessary. Darlene remembers the callous-like rings that formed around her legs where the boot tops rubbed.

Darlene also recalls how dirty the insides of the boots got since we wore shoes inside them. Since her socks would get dirty, she wore her shoes barefoot and stuffed her socks in her pocket. When Darlene got to school, she took off the boots and shoes and put on her clean socks.

At school, we put all the winter clothes on at recess and played outside, making snow forts, having snowball fights, and getting wet. I can never forget the odor of wet coats, pants and hats as they dried in front of the school's stove.

Gloves lined the top of the gas stove.

So, when the first signs of spring arrived in March or April, depending on the year, we looked forward to a nice warm afternoon after school. We walked home hatless and gloveless. When patches of bare ground started appearing on the road, we took off our boots and walked on them. It didn't matter that we had to put the boots on again. We would have been in serious trouble if we'd shown up at the house with wet shoes.

We didn't waste much time walking on the road past the little pasture where the cows and calves had been turned out next to a calf shed. We were nervous about the cows, though they never bothered us.

Dad kept an eye out for us after school.

When the snow started to go off in earnest, we children hunted for the first salt and peppers to appear. These are tiny hard-to-describe plants that grow wild. They last awhile and then disappear until the next year.

My sister, Darlene, once put one of the flowering "heads" under the microscope. She reported that the head was made up of several little white lily-like flowers with black stamens. Thus the white and black color and the name salt and peppers.

A little later, the Johnny-Jump-Up flowers appeared. These little yellow and purple violas seemed to have faces.

We also listened for the sounds of the spring songs of the red-winged blackbirds and the unmistakable sounds of the first flicker. When the bluebirds appeared, spring was there for sure.

The creek started to open up, and the frost and ice started to melt from under the ground. It was the beginning of mud season. Getting across the corral without sinking meant stepping sideways along the bottom corral poles or finding the firmest route possible.

After a long winter, going to a movie in Craig was a big treat. The theater sent out monthly calendars of the movies that would be shown. So, we picked a movie, and if the evening weather was good, we did chores early, got in the car and headed for the 7 p.m. showing.

Sometimes we'd come to a place in the road that was impassable because of the gooey, boggy, adobe mud. We'd have to turn around and go back home. I remember how disappointed we were.

However, all of the winter moisture paid off when the grass began to grow and the wild flowers began to bloom. Lupine, larkspur, Indian Paint Brush, sunflowers (which really weren't sunflowers at all) and other flowers turned the landscape into a thing of beauty. The hills were white from the flowering serviceberry and chokecherry (if they didn't freeze).

One thing about spring was for sure.

Just when we all reached the point that we didn't think the rain, snow, wind and slop would ever end, it suddenly turned warm and dry.

And then there were all kinds of spring ranch chores to get done in a hurry. Fences had to be repaired so cattle could be turned out, calves had to be branded, meadows were in need of harrowing and ditches had to be cleaned.

Some things never change.

Diane Prather can be reached by calling 970-824-8809 or by writing to her at P.O. Box 415, Craig 81626.

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