From Pipi’s Pasture: Memories that bring the shivers
Warm air greeted me as I came through the front door this morning. It was after chores, and the temperature was around 6 above. Although I had dressed in layers and had two hoods tied over my head, I was cold. Maybe the light breeze had something to do with it, but whatever the case I was grateful that the house felt cozy when I came through the door.
After I settled down with a cup of hot coffee and was ready to write, I began thinking back to the cold weather my siblings and I experienced when we were growing up on the ranch at Morapos. I’m especially remembering those years when my sister Charlotte (Allum) and I were pretty young. For some years we heated the kitchen stove with wood and coal; we’re not clear how the dining room/living room was kept warm in earlier years, but at some point there was a heater that ran on natural gas or propane.
The kitchen stove was converted to natural gas or propane, too. (Did you ever notice how often there are gaps in memories?)
At any rate, the upstairs of the house had to rely on heat from downstairs. Charlotte and I slept upstairs. She remembers sleeping in her clothes. We had a lot of quilts and blankets and on coldest nights Mom filled hot water bottles or heated irons (the kind we used for ironing clothes) and wrapped them in towels. I can still remember her climbing up the stairs and tucking them into the foot of the bed with us. We slept warm all night.
The next morning (we never slept late), we dressed as fast as we could, briefly warmed ourselves by the dining room stove, and went out to the outhouse that was located a little way from the house. It meant putting on outdoor clothes and boots and sometimes taking a blanket along, too. To get to the outhouse we had to cross a narrow bridge that had been placed over a ditch. It was often slick in the winter so more than once those who crossed over ended up in the ditch. As if the cold weren’t enough!
On weekdays we had to get ready for school. We wore warm clothes, of course, which also included long stockings. When I was in the first and second grades the school was heated with wood and coal, but in later years a newer school had a natural gas heater. On very cold days our recess time was spent inside playing chalkboard games.
Dad milked the cow, ate breakfast, and then got ready to feed the cow herd. He dressed in warm clothes, of course, always taking an extra pair of gloves with him. Dad wore a “skull cap” over his head and ears. (Dad gave the cap its name.) It was most often the top of one of Mom’s old nylon stockings (not to be confused with panty hose). The cap fit down over Dad’s head and ears and helped hold in body heat. In addition, Dad also wore a kerchief over his face.
Charlotte remembers Dad’s routine in harnessing the sled team when it was cold. In order to prevent the horses’ mouths from sticking to cold metal, Dad always slipped the bridle bits inside his coat and warmed them before putting the bridles on the horses. What a wonderful memory.
All of these memories of the cold weather from years ago have me shivering!
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