Here’s another of Merle Aus’ stories written exclusively for HorsesOfTheWest.com. Keep checking back, and he’ll write more! For more information about Merle, check out his page.
I used to sort of enjoy winter. When I was still in school we used to go ice skating and of course basketball season was on. I lived in a dormitory with about 90 other guys and there was always a ping pong game going on except from 7:30 till 9:30 when we were supposed to be in our rooms studying.
Sometimes my good friend Orville Monson would get out his guitar and I played a mandolin. We played country western of course.
Later on when I was still a young guy on the ranch, (in south west North Dakota near Amidon, south of Medora,) winter was the time of the year when the heavy work was mostly done and we could spend the evenings reading or watching T.V. Or we could go to the neighbors to play cards or just to visit.
We used to think we lived in a banana belt. Most winters were fairly mild compared to the eastern part of the state. But then occasionally a winter would come along that we can remember for a long time. We don’t remember much about the open winters but if you are in the livestock business you sure as heck remember the challenging ones.
I remember the winter of 1951 – ’52. We got some snow in October and instead of thawing away it just kept on snowing . So by January we had enough snow to be a definite challenge. My brother, Wilmer and I had bought a ranch together in 1949 and had stocked it with cattle, sheep and horses. We had put up a little hay but intended to winter on cake (soy bean pellets,) and grass. The snow was at least two feet deep on the level and big drifts everywhere. The cattle and sheep needed hay. The horses got by because they know how to paw the snow away to get at the grass. Fortunately we had some hay stacked at the ranch for the sheep and some more stacked in the winter pasture so we could go to them by horseback and pitch the hay over the fence to the cattle. There are better ways now days but we got by without any winter loss.
Wilmer and Grace had just gotten married the fall before and during the coldest part of the winter we were snowed in. Grace became ill and needed to see a doctor. Fortunately Graces’ brother Julius came over on snowshoes to see how we were getting along. (We had no telephone then.) By taking a road a seismograph company was keeping open for their trucks, Julius could drive within a couple miles of the ranch. I had made a small sled to pull with a saddle horse. I could haul 4 or 5 bales of hay. So I saddled a horse and my sled became an ambulance. Grace was a good sport and got on the sled and I pulled her to where Julius left his car. He got her to the doctor and everything turned out just fine. Most of the time things turn out O.K. I’m an optimist.
I’m sure Grace would rather have had a regular ambulance. A sleigh ride can be fun—sometimes. It’s a good thing we didn’t have to go down any steep hills. No brakes.
So long ‘til next time.
Author of ‘It’s Better to be Lucky Then Good.
For more information about Merle, check out his page.