Here at Pipi’s Pasture, the past few days has me remembering those hot summer days on the ranch when my siblings and I were growing up and how we kids passed the time to keep cool.
First, a word about the weather: It was hot, but even more so in Craig. After a shopping trip to town, we marveled at how much cooler it seemed as we headed up the Morapos Road toward home.
Along with the heat came cloud bursts, too, with thunder, lightning and hail. We were so frightened during those storms that I can remember begging Mom to take us to bed where we could hide under the covers. Sometimes the storms proved to be true “gully washers,” bringing soil and rocks down from the hills. At least one time the water rushed down into our grandparents’ yard on Deer Creek, leaving a little water in their house.
The highway near Hamilton wasn’t a safe place to be during gully washer storms. Sometimes, large rocks came down into the highway, closing the road until it could be cleared.
The main ranch job in summer was putting up hay. When we were young, hay wasn’t baled; it was stacked loose.
Dad hired men to help put it up. Back at the house, we girls helped Mom with the household chores, which included cooking a big noon meal for the haying crew.
We ran to the garden for lettuce and onions, picked strawberries from the strawberry patch, gathered eggs at the chicken house, set the table and other such chores. When the men had eaten and returned to the field, the girls helped clean up. By then, after all of the cooking, the house was stifling hot. In the afternoon, the coolest places to play were outdoors.
One of our favorite places was under the huge old silver-leaf maple tree that grew in the front yard. We put a blanket down underneath the tree. Sometimes Mom came out and joined us, crocheting or mending socks. She taught us to embroider so we often passed the afternoon with our sewing projects, too. Other times, we took our dolls outdoors.
We also enjoyed playing in the ditch in the part of the corral behind the barn. The ditch looked more like a creek and was surrounded by chokecherry, serviceberry and oak trees, but even more intriguing were the great big rocks on its banks. It was enough to climb around on these rocks and to listen to the trickling sounds of the water, but we also sailed sticks and leaves in the water and pretended to be pioneers who were “fishing” for our supper (the “fish” being sticks). (Even though this story is being written in past tense, my children and grandchildren also have been drawn to this ditch area where they have played the same games that we played all those years ago.)
The barn, too, was a fun place to play, though it may have been a little stuffy on a hot afternoon. Dad hung saddles up in the barn, and they were at just the right height for us to climb aboard. We pretended to be Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, or other cowboy stars popular during those times, as we rode away after the cattle rustlers. It was fun to climb into the loft, too.
Sometimes, if neighborhood kids or cousins came for a visit, we played a full-blown cowboy game. We took on the roles of sheriff, ranchers, bad guys and hired men — among others. The springer barn, used for calving in the spring, became the jail where the bad guys got locked up.
The ditch widened out in the main part of the corral, and we sometimes waded in the water, heeding Mom’s warning to “save our shoes.” (We didn’t have that many pair of shoes in those days, so we had to take care of them.)
Of course, we also had our playhouses, which weren’t really “houses” at all. They were little openings in the thicket of trees behind our house that we pretended to be our homes. The great big rocks in these openings became beds or tables, and we carried cans and other throwaway containers out to our playhouses in which to make mud pies that we let dry in the sun. We never took good doll dishes or dolls out there. We spent hours in our playhouses.
In those days, we didn’t have television (not even electricity for some years) or computer games, but we still had plenty of things to do on a hot summer day.