As I look out on Pipi’s Pasture, I’m reminded of winter days when I was a child growing up on the ranch at Morapos (south of Hamilton). Memories take me back to when I was in the elementary grades, around 7 to 9 years of age.
I’m remembering cold, snowy days when the wind blew and the snow piled up. Sometimes we were pretty much snowed in during the winter, the worst year, of course, being 1949, when drifts were 10 feet deep in places (so I am told). We lived 23 miles from Craig, and in those days people didn’t go to town as often as they do now, even in good weather, so I don’t remember being terribly upset at having to stay home all winter.
We didn’t have telephones in those early days, but we did get mail. When the weather was bad the mail was delivered by horseback.
The Morapos School was only a quarter of a mile from our house, so my sister Charlotte and I walked to school when the snow wasn’t too deep. Dad sometimes took us to school on the feed sled or on horseback. We girls wore dresses but also long underwear, long stockings, snow pants and heavy coats.
Weather permitting, we played outside during recess, making snow forts and hiding behind them during snowball fights. I’ll never forget the odor of wet coats, gloves and hats drying in front and even on top of the schoolhouse stove. Sometimes we stayed inside at recess, playing games, like trying to find cities, rivers and mountains on the big world and United States maps in the classroom.
Dad’s big job of the day was feeding the main bunch of cattle that were quite a ways from the house, down in the pasture where the hay had been stacked. It was a cold job, so Dad dressed in plenty of warm clothes. He pulled a “skull cap” that had been cut from the top of one of Mom’s old nylon stockings over the top of his head and down over his ears. He wore a kerchief around his neck, and he pulled it up over his nose.
The feed sled was pulled down into the pasture by a team of horses. Dad pitched loose hay onto the sled and then put it off again to the cows on the feedlot. He got one more load of hay before heading home, this one for the corral animals.
Meanwhile, Mom was busy cooking. No matter if we were snowed in, we always had lots of good food. Mom spent all summer canning. By winter the basement shelves were lined with jars of vegetables, fruit, jams and jellies, pickles and meats — even soups. Bushels of potatoes were stored in the basement, too. There were also onions and carrots buried in sand. Sometimes even orchard apples lasted part of the winter.
Before winter set in, Mom stocked up on flour, sugar, coffee, spices and other staples. We had a milk cow that provided milk, butter and cream. Mom’s chickens didn’t lay very well when the weather was cold, but Mom was still able to save enough eggs to provide for baking needs.
Mom baked all of our bread, made cinnamon rolls with a gooey covering and baked lots of pies, cakes and cookies. Staying home all winter didn’t mean that we weren’t well fed.
We didn’t have television or computer games, so how did we kids pass the time during the winters? That’s the next story.