There was plenty of work to be done on the ranch when my siblings and I were growing up, especially in the summer. Haying made up a good portion of the work, but even though the cattle were on summer pasture, they had to be checked, too. So we didn’t take weekends off or much of any time off, for that matter — unless it rained.
The hot weather was accompanied by occasional severe thunderstorms. These storms were referred to as “gully washers” because water mixed with mud roared down gullies, sometimes leaving mud piled up against our grandparents’ house. There was hail, too, that scared me to death, causing me to want to hide under the bed. I also remember days in late July when we had a couple of days of steady rain. These storms were important, not only for the crops, but because it’s when we got some time off.
Our cattle were on summer pasture in the White River National Forest. We and several other ranches in the community shared a grazing permit for the summer. All of the cattle were mixed together. They had to be checked periodically — to make sure that they were inside the forest boundaries, that they had adequate water and salt, and if they were in an area where there was abundant larkspur, which was poisonous, the cattle were slowly moved to another grazing area. Depending on the year, there may have been a hired rider to watch over the cattle, or the ranchers took turns doing it themselves.
The ranchers had put up a cow camp cabin where they stayed when riding. So, if it rained and the hay was too wet to work, Dad often used that time to check the cattle. Sometimes we kids went along, too, which was a big deal. Imagine getting to ride a horse in the aspens and evergreens and then staying the night in the cabin. Best of all, we got to eat some of the canned food that was stored there — like spaghetti and meatballs — because we didn’t have lots of canned food at home. Riding with Dad was an example of our summer recreation.
If the cattle had been checked recently and the rain had stopped, we sometimes went fishing. This was the “spur of the moment” decision which left no time to prepare lunch, but we kids didn’t mind a bit. It meant that we could stop by the Hamilton Store and buy hot dogs, buns, chips, “boughten” cookies, and soda pop — real treats since we didn’t have them all that often.
We often fished in the Williams Fork River or, if we had enough driving time, in the White River near Meeker. There we found a campground and enjoyed the day fishing or playing around the camp site. Mom usually enjoyed time with her crocheting or other handiwork. In the late afternoon we left for home, watching for deer that were grazing in the pastures along the way. (Believe it or not, it was not so common to see deer in the fields at Morapos in those days.)
Sometimes when it rained we took a day off to take in the Ride and Tie Rodeo in Craig.( That’s how I can remember that it rained for a couple of days at the end of July.) It was another example of our summer recreation.
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