Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series.
This morning, the skies over Pipi’s Pasture are gray, and a light rain is falling. The day reminds me of rainy days years ago when I was growing up on the ranch. Because we couldn’t do any ranch work, a wet day was a good time to drive to Craig to do our shopping, especially if it was a Saturday and we didn’t have school.
Dad would be finishing his morning coffee as he told us the plans for the day. He’d say that it was too wet to harrow the meadows or to burn last year’s grass along the irrigation ditches, and he was sure nobody could brand calves (as the community ranchers helped one another with brandings). Then he’d say that we might as well “head for town while we had a chance” because we needed calf vaccine and alcohol for branding (or other ranch supplies).
Mom needed groceries, so she would start making a list in her head. We girls didn’t need anything, but we looked forward to a full day in town where we could look around in the stores, select a small purchase and have lunch.
So when Dad went outdoors to feed the cows and check the calves, we finished up the inside chores and fixed our hair. There always was the chance that a ranch emergency could change our shopping plans. Dad might find a sick calf, for example, or a late-calving cow might be in labor. It happened sometimes, and we kids learned to live with disappointments, but most of the time, the trip went as planned.
For this story, I’m drawing on memories that were stored away when I was about 8 years old. That would have made Charlotte about 6 and Darlene 2. (Our brother Duane wasn’t born yet.) It’s been so many years ago that it’s difficult to remember exactly what Craig was like in those days, but one thing is for sure: The town offered a surprising number of shopping opportunities.
We can remember two variety stores, two drug stores, a gift shop, a JC Penney, a Golden Rule Store, one store specializing in men’s clothing and another in women’s clothing, a saddle and shoe repair shop and about three hardware stores. There were two grocery stores, too. And there might have been more.
When we got to town, Dad let Mom and us kids off downtown, and he went to run ranch errands.
We girls always had a little money, with emphasis on “little.” Charlotte remembers that each of us got a small allowance, and at times, we possibly received a little birthday or Christmas money. However, it wasn’t a lot of money, so when we went to town, we hung onto it for as long as possible, searching for just the right purchase.
Our favorite shopping place might have been the variety store. I honestly can’t remember what I bought there, but I might have chosen a writing tablet, possibly with a cowboy cover, or a celebrity paper doll book featuring a movie star like Doris Day or Susan Hayward. Charlotte remembers looking for jewelry, such as some rings in boxes.
Darlene liked “Little Golden Books.” She recalls a time when she was older than 2 and had a quarter to spend. That was the price of one book, so she selected a “Little Golden Book” and took it to the clerk who said, “26 cents.” Darlene couldn’t understand why the clerk wanted 26 cents when the price tag was 25 cents. She didn’t have a penny so she had to put the book back.