From Pipi’s Pasture: An equinox storm?
The equinox, defined by Webster’s New World Dictionary, is “the time when the sun crosses the equator, making night and day of equal length.” It also marks the beginning of autumn.
So here it is, Sept. 22, as I write this week’s column. Most county residents will agree that there’s usually a weather change around the equinox, give or take a few days. Sometimes the weather change can be pretty significant, too. Right now the wind is blowing; according to our little weather station it’s gusting to 23 miles per hour. The barometer is falling, some of the clouds are just plain black, and the sun occasionally peeks through the clouds. The question —will it rain or snow?
I can recall two significant equinox storms. The first was when I was a girl growing up on the ranch at Morapos. In those days we, along with some neighbors and relatives, put cattle on the White River National Forest by permits in the summer. The cattle were herded up the county road that ran past our house to the forest boundary and pushed onto the forest ground. All of the community cattle grazed together.
As I remember, the cattle grazed on the forest ground from about July 4 to sometime in October when the ranchers spent days/weeks gathering them.
One year it snowed in September, around the equinox. I don’t recall whether we had snow at the ranch, but boy, oh, boy, it snowed in the mountains. My brother, Duane Osborn, remembers Dad saying that his stirrups dragged in the snow as he rode his horse through it.
The cows decided not to fool around. A lot of them headed home. The ranchers rode up the road and met the cows coming home. It wasn’t time for them to be home yet. The ranchers knew if they let the cows come on home, fall pasture would run out sooner than it should, and then the winter hay would run out, too.
The only thing left to do was to hold the cattle at the county road boundary, feed them hay, wait until the weather improved, and take them back to the forest. They made arrangements to rent a hunk of pasture from a neighbor at the end of the road.
The most pressing problem was to watch for still more cows coming down from the forest and hold them. Someone found a tent, the men put it up in the road, and they took turns watching for cows — I guess, anyway. The part I remember was my sisters and me going up with Mom. We took food to the men.
The weather cleared up, the ranchers herded the cattle back up to the forest, and the rest of the fall was beautiful.
Most readers will remember an equinox snow of just a few years ago, a heavy snow that caused the tree branches to bend and break. Yards were filled with broken branches. Lyle and I loaded some bales of hay in the pickup and headed up to Morapos to feed our cows, still on summer pasture. Along the way we marveled at the trees that were bent over.
At summer pasture, the snow was way up past the tops of our boots. My brother helped us feed the cows for two or three days, and then we moved them home when the weekend arrived. Moving the cows down the road and getting backed into the loading dock was one muddy mess, even though the weather had cleared by then.
So, as I sit writing my column, I wonder — are we in for an equinox storm?
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