The dining room is one of my favorite places to sit and write, especially in winter. For one thing, it’s warm and cozy. For another, there are three large windows on the west side of the room, and through them, I can check out the winter scene without having to be out in the cold (even though I spend about four hours per day outside doing chores).
A crab apple tree grows just outside the dining room windows, and I enjoy watching the sparrows perch on the branches and peck away at the tiny crab apples that we left there last fall. I can also watch the cats crawl under the garden gate, hurrying to the haystack down by the corral. That’s where I leave them food twice each day.
If they’re in just the right place, I can see some of the corral cattle, too, as they eat their breakfast or scratch on the pole fence. That’s where Pipi is this winter. And just beyond the backyard fence, in Pipi’s Pasture, cows munch on hay that we spread out earlier in the morning.
Everything is covered with snow, and it has been so cold this winter that it reminds me of those years when my siblings and I were growing up on the ranch at Morapos. When we weren’t in school or doing chores, we stayed inside where it was warm and watched the birds and other animals through the windows.
However, cozy as it is to be inside during the winter, we all need to be with other people, too. In this modern-day world with equipment to keep the highways free of snow, it isn’t difficult to get to Craig to work — not usually, anyway. But I think of those winters at the ranch when the road conditions prevented us from getting to Craig. Sometimes ranchers had to be pretty creative in figuring out how to maneuver county roads to get to the neighbor’s place, for example. Even so, community people did get together.
I can remember most clearly back to the time I was 8 or 9 years old. In those days, many of the ranchers’ homes were pretty small, but people didn’t let that stop them; they entertained anyway. Our house had a kitchen, combination dining room and living room, a bedroom downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs. The rooms were small, and my siblings and I often try to picture where “we put people” when we had company.
For a period of time, some of the community people belonged to a club organized by some of the women. The club met once each month, and members took turns hosting the evening potluck dinner. The club wasn’t just for the women; it was for the whole family. The hostess fixed the meat, potatoes and some other dishes, and the guests filled in with salads and desserts.
If everyone attended, there were easily 16 people to fit in our small house. I don’t remember how people were served, but I’m guessing that the food was put out on the dining room table. I can’t remember if we had paper plates or not. The kids were served first, and we took our plates and sat in the kitchen or upstairs. The men ate at the table; perhaps the women did, too, depending on the number of guests who showed up.
After the dishes were cleaned up, the women retired to the living room. Part of their club agenda was working on a sewing or craft project. Each woman had a secret pal, too, so they all shared letters and gifts they had received from their “pals.” The men stayed at the dining room table where they played cards, usually poker.
We kids played upstairs, which typically included jumping on the bed. Since our beds had metal headboards with attached slats or rods, the jumping made a whole lot of racket, and it wasn’t long before the adults were yelling at us. All of the jumping eventually caused the slats or rods to come loose from the headboards, too.
The monthly club meeting was just one occasion when people got together to pass winter evenings. There were others, too … to be continued next week.