Pipi’s Pasture: Cutting ice at the watering hole
December 8, 2017
When the weather is icy-cold, as it has been today, I can't help but think about the days years ago when Dad had to cut the ice off the watering hole at the creek so the cattle could get water. On weekend mornings, some of us kids were with him.
First, we loaded the sled with hay from a stack in the pasture. Then, the horses pulled the sled while Dad fed the hay off. When the feeding was done, Dad put an axe over his shoulder and headed for the creek to cut the ice off the watering hole, which wasn't far from the feedlot. We kids tagged along.
At the creek, we could hear the water trickling along under the ice. It was easy to pick out the watering hole, because its ice was thinner on top, as compared to the rest of the creek.
As Dad chopped the ice, pieces were picked up by the rippling water, and they disappeared under the heavier ice and floated downstream. Sometimes, Dad also "roughed up" the surrounding ice, so the cattle wouldn't slip when they got a drink.
At the corral, the cattle drank water from a ditch that ran (still runs) through it. The watering hole there had to be checked for ice, as well.
Years passed. I married and had my own family, and we had our own little herd of cattle. Before moving to Pipi's Pasture, we fed them in a pasture where there was running water. Then, it was Lyle who put the axe over his shoulder and cut ice off the watering hole.
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I remember one day that I had to, for some reason, cut the ice off the watering hole by myself. It was snowing and blowing that morning. The watering hole wasn't far from the house, but I had to go down a little hill. I took our son's dog, Benji, with me.
We finally made it down the hill, but when the wind let up enough so I could see, I was surprised that we were nowhere close to the watering hole. I got a taste of disorientation during a storm. Benji never left my side.
Now, here at Pipi's Pasture, we don't have a creek or river. Our "watering holes" are stock tanks, which we fill a couple of times during the day. They bring their own set of problems in the winter — frozen hoses, tank heaters that quit working for a variety of reasons and surprise leaks.
One of our worst problems is a tank that cannot be hooked up with a tank heater. It means chopping lots of ice, removing it from the water's surface and stacking the ice where the cattle won't slip on it. I have even packed water by buckets to that pen.
Sometimes, it would be nice to have a watering hole in a creek.