Pipi’s Pasture: Winter memories
I’ve never liked winter. I don’t like snow (although I know that we need it), and I don’t like the cold. The only thing I might enjoy about winter is ice skating — if I knew how.
I was born in February when Moffat County was experiencing a severe cold snap. My dad told me that it was 52 degrees below zero. He remembered how difficult it was to get a vehicle started so that he could drive into Craig from the ranch to visit his newborn daughter.
When I was about 8 years old, living on the ranch at Morapos, I used to help with the winter evening chores. I remember that my feet got so cold that I felt like I was walking in wooden shoes. The bucket of grain I carried from the corral to the chicken house by the house dragged in the snow.
Our house was heated by one stove, plus the cooking stove, so the upstairs bedroom was cold. Sometimes, Mom heated flat irons (used to press clothes), wrapped them in towels and put them in bed with us so we could keep our feet warm, therefore warming up the rest of our bodies. So when we got up in the morning, we didn’t waste much time getting dressed.
On top of everything, we didn’t have indoor plumbing or electricity until I was about 14. That meant that we had to use the outhouse that wasn’t terribly close to the house. At night, we had to put outer clothing over our pajamas and pull on our gloves and boots. We had to use a flashlight, too. Brr! I get the chills even thinking about it.
Before going to school, we put on long underwear and long stockings and then our other clothing. We bundled up in so many outer clothes that it’s a wonder we could even walk. Sometimes, Dad took us to school on the feed sled or by horseback. If it was very cold or snowy, we kids stayed in school during recess. If it wasn’t so cold, we made snow forts outside.
Feeding the cattle was done by a feed sled that was pulled by a team of horses. The sled was loaded with loose hay that had to be pitched from a stack. The hay was pitched off to the cows on the feedlot, and then the sled was loaded one more time so that there would be hay for the corral stock.
On weekend days, we kids sometimes went to feed with Dad, but although I enjoyed feeding the cows, I got awfully cold waiting for Dad to load the hay. Dad always wore a scarf around his neck and sometimes had a kerchief around his nose and mouth.
If the winter day was sunny and reasonably warm, we kids sometimes took our sled on the morning feed trip. Dad tied it behind the feed sled, and we got pulled along for a fine ride. Most of the time, Dad sledded with us. It was fun, but I mostly remember the cold.
The cattle drank from a creek, so that meant cutting a water hole each morning. Each night, the water hole covered over with ice, and Dad had to use an ax to break it.
When Christmastime came around, we kids worried that the snow might be too deep to go into town to do our shopping. There may have been a year or so when we kids had to make gifts for our family members, but most of the time, we had our shopping trip. Dad hurried around in the morning to get chores done as quickly as possible so that we’d have time to drive to Craig and shop. Even so, sometimes it got dark before we started home. My sister Darlene remembers how festive downtown Craig looked with all its lights. And was it ever cold when we got home and unloaded all of our treasures.
All of these winters later, we still feed cattle every morning, and though we don’t cut water holes, we fill stock tanks with water and then put the hoses inside where they can’t freeze. I still pack buckets of grain, though they don’t drag in the snow, and my feet still get cold on occasion. But thank goodness we have indoor plumbing and a better-heated house.
And I still don’t like winter.
The Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters will move to Grand Junction.