From Pipi’s Pasture: Remembering the cold weather growing up on the ranch
January 11, 2018
This morning, our granddaughter, Megan (Prather), called us from Nebraska, where she is living on a cattle ranch. She was excited because it had warmed up. The temperature was "way up" to 23 degrees above zero, and she was even wearing her shorts.
Twenty-three degrees might not seem warm to us, but for days now, the daytime temperature where she lives in Nebraska has been in the single digits, sometimes in the minus category. And night temperatures? Suffice it to say, they have been a lot worse. Megan has been having problems with frozen plumbing. Twenty-three degrees must seem wonderful.
So, Megan's weather report has me remembering days past, when I was growing up on the ranch. I never did like cold weather (though I might have endured it to learn to ice skate). We lived in a rather small house with two bedrooms upstairs. The house was heated by a cook stove in the kitchen and a coal/wood stove in the dining/living room. I don't remember the year we switched to using natural gas.
We girls slept upstairs, which was heated only by the stove downstairs. On really cold nights, Mom heated the flat irons (used for ironing clothes) and wrapped them in towels. She packed them upstairs and put them under the covers at the foot of the bed. We put our feet on the irons, which helped warm us up. Our bed was covered with several quilts or blankets and perhaps flannel sheets.
Our plumbing never froze up, because we didn't have any. We didn't have any electricity until I was in my teens, and our bathroom came after I had left home for college. We relied on an outhouse for a bathroom, and if we had to use it on a cold night, we often took a blanket outside with us.
We girls usually wore dresses to school, but we wore long stockings under them. On really cold days, Dad gave us a ride to school on the feed sled or by horseback. The school was heated by wood and coal that was hauled in by parents. It was the teacher's responsibility to build a fire in the morning, keep the stove going and haul out the ashes.
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I remember evenings on the ranch. After I had fed the 4-H steers, I waited for Dad to finish milking, so I could walk to the house with him. My feet felt so cold, it was as if I were wearing wooden shoes.
Come to think about it, 23 degrees above zero does seem pretty warm.