From Pipi’s Pasture: Saying ‘so long’ to the hatchet |

From Pipi’s Pasture: Saying ‘so long’ to the hatchet

Diane Prather/For Craig Press

The morning of Jan. 1 was cold, much too cold to be playing around in the water. The water I'm referring to was in the round, 200-gallon stock tank that's in the part of the corral where we can't use a tank heater.

So far this winter, it has been handy for me to keep the tank filled up, because the cows in that corral have plenty of water, and I haven't had to fill the tank every day. However, it has been almost impossible to keep the ice off the entire surface of the tank, so I've been keeping a water hole open in it that gives a cow plenty of room to drink, kind of like a water hole in a creek. I go through this same routine each year — until the ice gets too thick. Then, I have to abandon the big tank until spring, relying on several smaller tanks for watering the cows.

So, on the morning of Jan. 1, the ice was pretty thick over the water hole. I figured I could get by a few more days, but trying to break the ice with the handle of the pitch fork didn't work very well. After we fed the cattle on the feedlot, I went to the shop and borrowed a hatchet from Lyle.

Back at the corral, I tackled the water hole. I congratulated myself, because the ice broke off pretty well, and I used my kitchen strainer with a handle to skim off the ice and throw it into a pile next to the fence. The resulting water hole was a pretty good size, enough for a cow to use, but I decided to make it just a little larger. That's when the hatchet slipped from my hand and slid into the tank of water.

Oh, no! I had lost Lyle's hatchet in the water. First, I foolishly reached down into the water to see if I could reach the hatchet. It was a mistake, because all I accomplished was to get my hand and coat sleeve wet. I did discover that the water in the tank was deep.

Next, I went to get the pitchfork. I thought maybe I could stick it down through the water hole and "feel" for the hatchet. Of course, I had to peel my wet, gloved hand off the gate when I went to get the fork, but eventually, I got unstuck and slid the tine-end of the fork into the water. No luck. The fork didn't hit anything.

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So, I ended up with a wet (and very cold) hand and coat sleeve, and I had to go back to the shop and tell Lyle that I had lost his hatchet — at least until spring, when the ice melts off the top of the tank.

However, I did have a water hole open for that day.

I should have known better. One year, I lost a metal strainer in the water when I was removing the ice, but I retrieved it in April.

The next day, it was even colder in the morning, so I decided to abandon the big water tank for now. It's too cold to play in the water; besides, Lyle has only so many hatchets. From now on, until spring, it's smaller tanks. They have to be filled more often, but it's easier to break the ice. It's just another winter day at Pipi's Pasture.