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Chapter 9

Winter Wonderland

After the harvest of the grain, the straw stack stays fenced off until about time for the
first frost then the gate is left down so the cattle can get in to the straw stack. The straw
is not a really nutritious feed, but it is filling and will help to keep the stock contented.
During some of the colder weather some grain will be put out for the stock to supplement
the straw.

When the cows are first turned into the straw stack, they instinctively go to the south side
of the stack to start eating. Some of the stacks may be as high as 12 to 15 feet and 30 to 35
feet across at the base. Since the cows cannot reach anywhere near the top, as they eat
the straw out of the side of the stack they form a pocket in the side.

Most of the bad weather here blows in from the north or northwest and this little pocket
on the south side of the straw stack provides protection from the elements. I have stood
at our front window and watched the cattle while it was sleeting. There might not be
room for more than a third of the cattle under the overhang of the straw, but they would
soon start to moving around and pretty soon the ones under the overhang would be
pushed outside and the ones that had been out in the sleet would be under the overhang
so they could get a little relief from the weather.

After the storm is over, the clouds finally clear out and the sun begins to shine again, the
wind may still be blowing pretty good out of the north, but on the south side of that straw
stack, out of the wind and in the sun is a mighty warm place to be. A few times I have
gotten up after an overnight snowfall and looked out to see everything covered with snow
and this huge Ďsnowballí out in front of the house with all of these red, white faced cattle
milling around beside it. What a picture that would make, but we never had a camera to
take a picture with.

One year the oat crop wasnít very good and they didnít have a very big straw stack.
Sometime about the second week in January we got a pretty good snowfall, four inches in
this country is considered a good snowfall. When it started snowing that little straw stack
didnít provide very much protection and all of the cattle headed for the cedar breaks
down by the creek.

The next day after the sun came out dad decided that we needed to get some hay out for
the cows. So, about the middle of the morning dad finally got the car started and we
headed to the main ranch house. It is about three quarters of a mile from our house to the
creek and another quarter mile or so to the lots behind the ranch house.

My uncle already had several mules up in the lot and dad picked out two of them, put the
harness on them and hitched them to the wagon. Dad then put about 12 or 15 bales of
hay on the wagon and we headed out, back across the creek and around the side of the
hill, staying about 50 yards up from the line of cedar trees. As dad drove the team of
mules, he started calling for the cows and I started breaking down the bales of hay and
throwing blocks of hay out of the back of the wagon.

Almost as soon as that first block of hay hit the ground the cattle started running out from
the cedar trees. Some of them headed for the blocks of hay already on the ground, but
most of them came running straight to the wagon. By this time they were grabbing the
blocks of hay right out of my hands as fast as I could pick them up off the bed of the wagon.

After we had gone about half a mile all the cattle had their own blocks of hay and we
turned to go up the hill to the road and back to the lot to unhitch the mules, take their
harness off and feed them some grain as a reward for their work. As we headed up the
hill I looked back at the scene below us and what a scene it was. There were spots of the
green cedar peeping out from the cover of snow and out away from that a ways was our
wagon tracks in the snow with the brown blocks of hay scattered along the tracks and the
cattle spaced out, one or two at each block chowing down. Another great scene I will
always carry in my memory.

Cold weather could also cause some problems. As was typical of farms at that time we
had a wooden overhead storage tank next to the windmill to store water in. Next to the
storage tank was a concrete water trough for the cattle to drink out of. The only
plumbing we had on the place was a water pipe coming out of the storage tank down to
the concrete water though, with a float in the trough to control the water level.

The bottom of the storage tank was about six feet above ground. The pipe was in the
open weatherwise for this distance. We tried keeping the pipe wrapped with old rags but
that didnít always keep it from freezing. The one thing that was in our favor was that this
was just gravity flow and there was no real pressure on the water in the pipe so that it had
some room to expand when it froze. However, there were a few times when we had
enough of a freeze to split the pipe in a place or two.

We couldnít afford to be replacing the pipe and dad always had several old blown out
inner tubes lying around. Dad would get one of those inner tubes and cut a strip from it
about two inches wide and stretch it and wrap the pipe really tight and tie it off with
baling wire. With no more pressure than was on the pipe that was enough to stop the leak.

Thank the Lord for old inner tubes and baling wire.

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