Diane Prather: Easters on the ranch

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Easter is still two weeks away, but this week's snowy weather has brought back memories of Easters past for this author. It was when my sisters, brother and I were growing up on our ranch south of Hamilton.

We kids were intrigued by magazine pictures depicting Easter morning. Children, carrying Easter baskets, hunted eggs hidden among tulips and daffodils, and white bunnies hopped around the bright green grass.

The pictures were intriguing for us because there were no blooming tulips or daffodils on the ranch at Easter. There wasn't any bright green grass yet, either. In fact, most Easters were snowy and sloppy, but we kept our fingers crossed anyway. If only there would be some bare places to find eggs.

Two weeks before Easter, we started saving up eggs from the hen house - usually adding up to seven or eight dozen by Easter (maybe more). We looked forward to egg dyeing time, which usually took place on the Saturday afternoon before Easter Sunday.

Big pots of eggs boiled away as we got out a bunch of cups and bowls, measured out the vinegar, and dropped in the color tablets.

We used the same Paas brand decorating kits that kids use today, but there were no "wrap around" kits or any other fancy ways to decorate eggs. Sometimes, the red tablets didn't make a red enough dye and we used red food coloring to make another cup of color.

At the end of coloring time, Dad came inside from doing ranch chores. He colored his own egg by dipping it in each one of the cups. It turned out to be a brownish color, and we kids all made faces.

However, it didn't stop us from mixing cups together, and the last eggs turned out to be a little strange looking, indeed.

Today, the egg decorating kits include stickers, but in those days we got two pages of transfer designs.

After the eggs dried, we chose designs, cut them out, and held each one on an egg with a damp cloth. In this manner, the Easter bunny, flowers, the cross, "Happy Easter," and other designs were transferred to the eggs. A wax pencil (that looked like a Crayon) was used to write names on the eggs.

There were lots of places to hunt eggs on the ranch, one of which was the barn with the hay and loft. In good weather, we hunted eggs in the yard and in a thicket behind the house where serviceberry and oak trees surrounded big rocks.

When it was snowy, the eggs were hidden in the house, even in our shoes.

Perhaps the biggest Easter morning treat was the Easter basket, a great big basket wrapped in cellophane that was tied up with a brightly colored bow.

The basket was filled with all kinds of candies, chocolate rabbits and eggs, and even goodies such as coloring and comic books.

We made the baskets last. I remember taking things out of the basket, looking everything over, and then putting it back. We rationed the candy.

Dad and Mom got baskets, too. We kids put them together and hid them when our parents weren't looking. Dad usually found his hanging on the corral gate when he came to the house with a pail of milk.

Dinner was always ham and the trimmings. Mom made hot cross buns and other fancy pastries, some of which were braided and decorated with candies or candied fruit. Sometimes we had a bunny cake, cut so there was a face and ears and then frosted with white icing and covered with coconut.

We enjoyed making the bunny's face.

Sometimes we went to a neighbor's house for Easter dinner. I remember one especially well because the neighbor made an Easter egg dye from boiling onion skins. She said these were the naturally-colored bunny eggs. They were all light brown and were challenging to find on a hillside covered with sagebrush.

So now it seems as if the years have passed in the blink of an eye. Now, our grandchildren come to our house for an annual egg hunt. What will two weeks mean? Will the kids be able to hunt eggs outside, or will the weather force them to hunt eggs in the shop?

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

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