Coping With Winter


My uncle Ray and his two brothers, Wallace and Warren owned a ranch in the upper Rio Grande Valley in Colorado.
Pump in the front yard, outhouse in back. Ice cut from winter lakes & stored in ice-house to cool ice-boxes in the summer.
This was pre-REA, so they had their own generator and shut it off at 11pm – after that it was kerosene lanterns or darkness.
The phone was party-line and hand-cranked. Folks used to have concerts, each playing piano/fiddle/harmonica/accordion/whatever.
Music online before the Internet!

Snow 8-10′ deep in the meadow, took a sleigh out to feed the cattle every day and a rifle at night to scare off the elk.
Roads were plowed, maybe, sometimes, barely – you didn’t depend on the County.
By today’s standards, they would be considered low-tech or even primitive.

About 6pm one February evening, Aunt Mabel got a call that a neighbor was coming back from Creede and his Model T got stuck in the snow about two miles down the road. He asked if Ray and Wal could bring a 4-horse team and fetch the car. The brothers snorted at the need for a big team, figuring he was exaggerating and set out to help, Wal driving a pair of bays pulling a sleigh, Ray on his favorite gelding and carrying a kerosene lantern.

Mabel started a pot of soup, figuring they’d need the warmth.

8pm, Mabel stirred the soup, wrote a couple of letters.

10pm Mabel moved the soup to the back of the (coal) stove to simmer, looked at the falling snow, 6 more inches in the last couple of hours.

11pm, Mabel calling up and down the line for any news. Nothing.

11:30, Mabel heard sounds from down the road, started ladling soup into bowls.

12:00 still sounds but no people. Amazing how far sound travels in the cold air. Soup back into the pot.

12:15, Ray and Wal and the neighbor arrive, cold and snowy. Wal opines the horses/sleigh were okay, but he wished he’d taken the four-horse team. Ray wished he hadn’t smashed the lantern against a fence post and felt grateful there was a full moon to light their way.

Mabel served soup and sheepdip (Colorado coffee).

4 Replies to “Coping With Winter”

  1. I’ve been to Creede. Air gets a bit thin up there.

    Not much need for ice if you live close to a stream or the river.

    I’ll look forward to that book.

    1. Needed the ice mostly for the walk-in ice box. They didn’t have refrigerators until the late 50s.
      The ranch also had about 20 cabins rented to fishermen, mostly from Texas but they didn’t need ice in their booze – that would have watered down the bourbon. 🙂

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