Playing on the ranch

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Some of my fondest memories of growing up on the ranch involve playing with my sisters. (Our brother came along when I was 14, so I didn’t get to play with him.)

Most of our play involved imagination.

Sometimes I wonder what we girls would have thought of all the electronic toys on the market today. We didn’t even have electricity on the ranch until (I’m guessing) I was at least 10, so there was no television, though we did have a battery-powered radio.

We lived 23 miles from Craig but didn’t go to town as often as people would now.

In the winter, we were often snowed in for months.

Dad managed to go out for supplies, usually to Hamilton. I believe the mail was delivered three times a week, probably by horseback in the winter months.

We didn’t have a lot of money, but we girls had toys.

We got dolls at Christmas. My favorites were the Toni doll (named for the brand of perm). She had hair made of a new kind of fiber, and she came with curlers.

I also loved my Plenty Sparkle doll, inspired by the Dick Tracy comics. And then there was the doll that “wet” after I fed her a bottle of water.

Mom and Grandma Osborn sewed clothes for our dolls.

One year, Grandpa Osborn made cradles for our dolls from orange crates, painted them white, and decorated them with decals. Grandma made mattresses for the beds and sewed sheets, blankets, and pillowcases. The pillows were probably filled with goose down.

My sister, Charlotte, and I spent hours rocking our dolls in the cradles. (I still have mine.)

Sister Darlene grew up when the Barbie dolls were becoming popular.

We had toy dishes, too, and a dollhouse with furniture.

Although we spent most of our time outdoors in the summer, we usually left our dolls and “good” dishes in the house.

However, I can remember waking Dad up one night because it was going to rain and we’d left some dolls out under the silver maple tree, a favorite place to play.

Usually when we played “dolls” outdoors it was the tame outside cat that got to be the doll.

We’d dress the cat up in doll clothes, complete with a bonnet, and put him in a doll buggy.

At first the cat rather enjoyed lying on a comfortable blanket and being pushed around, but eventually he got cranky and ran off, clothes and all.

We girls were left screaming to Mom to help catch the cat and recover the doll clothes.

We pretended the front steps of our house were our car (front and back seats), and we’d drive to town to shop.

The flowers were imaginary dresses. A big pink hollyhock was a ball gown, and the California poppies were gorgeous dresses.

If the cat cooperated, he got to be pushed around in the buggy while we “shopped.”

Pretend play also included “dress up.”

We kept a box of old clothes on the front porch, and no matter what we wore, we could imagine we were brides, princesses, or other characters.

Some ideas for pretend play came from movies we watched.

Each month the theatre in Craig sent out a calendar, with movies marked in on the dates they would be shown. When the weather was good, we sometimes got to go to the movies.

Then we played the characters in the movies at home. For example, our outdoor swing became a trapeze after we saw “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Big rolls of woven wire in the back of the house (left from fencing) became the stage from “Calamity Jane.” We’d climb up on the rolls and bounce away, singing “The Deadwood Stage” as Doris Day did in the movie. (Other times, the rolls of wire were covered wagons from another movie.)

We listened to cowboy shows, like Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, on the radio and played cowboy, too.

On a hot summer afternoon, the barn was a perfect place to ride on saddles that hung on ropes from the ceiling. When neighborhood kids came to visit, we took parts of sheriff, cowboys, and bad guys. I remember the “springer barn” on the ranch was the jail.

We had outdoor playhouses, too, and pretend play along the creek and ditch, and a lot more, but that’s a story for another time.

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