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Memories of Droughts

                      My dad is 85 years old and a wealth of wisdom and knowledge.  He serves as president of the Cowboy Story Tellers of  the Western Plains.  A couple of times a year a newsletter is printed and being the president he is required to write an article.  Today his story was on the droughts he had witnessed and I thought it too good not to share.  There are more "drought" stories, and he promised he would elaborate more so watch for Part II of Memories of Drought and other stories from my dad, Ralph Chain.                 
P.S. If you're interested in becoming a member of the Story Tellers' Assn. meet us in Pretty Praire, KS November 5th!


                          Memories of Droughts

About anywhere we’ve been this summer, all we heard about is how dry and how hot it
has been. We were in the Kansas Flinthills this week selling cows at El Dorado, Kansas, and about all we heard at the sale barn were people talking about running out of water and creeks and ponds going dry. Some of the ranches had grass but no water. Thank goodness, on our rancheswe still have grass and water. My theory has been - every year is a drought, and we don’t know when that year’s going to happen. We have stocked our ranches because of the experiences I have gone through in my 84 years in Dewey County.

The first drought I remember was in the 1930's when my sister, Wymola, and I were bringing our milk cows in about 3:00 in the afternoon. The sky turned completely dark, and we ran to the house thinking the world was coming to an end. It was dust rolling in from Eastern Colorado and Western Kansas, and the wind blew all night long, covering our beds, tables, and anything else that dust could settle on. But we managed.

The government was buying cattle because there was no feed, and no one had anything to feed their cattle. They were giving $10.00 a head for the cattle, digging trenches, and then driving the cattle in the trenches and shooting them. My grandad and my dad never sold any cattle to this program, but we did buy some of our neighbors cattle, that were going to have theirs shot. We survived the drought of the 1930's.

The next drought was in the 1950's, which lasted nearly four years. We hauled hay from Nebraska and South Dakota and had hay shipped in from Wisconsin to survive that drought.

That year the Blackjack trees and grass died because the drought lasted so long. I remember our neighbor selling his cows at the Woodward Sale Barn for $45.00 a head. We had two employees that went broke during this drought because they had bought high-priced cows before the market broke, and they went to work for us.
The neighbor that sold his cows for $45.00 a head toward the end of the drought, which no one knew when it would end, those same sort of cows the next year at the Woodward Sale Barn brought $245.00 a head, because is started raining and people had grass and wanted to stock their pastures.

The next drought was in the 1980's. That drought was not nearly as bad as the two preceding ones because people had learned how to conserve the soil, put up hay and irrigation had been developed in Eastern Colorado, Western Kansas, and the Oklahoma Panhandle.
Large feedlots were developed in the 1970's and the drought hit in the 1980's. Everybody was wanting to build a feedlot and put cattle in them. Feedlots became as numerous as filling stations because everyone wanted to feed cattle. This went real well until all the feedlots became full, and the fat cattle were all being shipped to market at the same time. Feedlots didn’t want to sell the cattle and kept feeding them until some of the cattle weighed 1500 to 1700 lbs.
The President put a ceiling on the price of fat cattle because beef got so high since people were putting so many cattle in feedlots.

But we survived the drought and the low cattle prices of the 1980's because we were prepared for a drought.
Our family and employees wonder why we have five balers and why we put up all that hay; now they know.
We try to have a year’s supply of hay to carry over.

One of our best friends, Bud Light (not the beer-that was his real name!), ran the elevator at Canton for a number of years. People would come in and complain that it was never going to rain again, then it would start raining and they would complain that is was never going to stop. They were always complaining about something. Bud said he had been to a lot of funerals, but he hadn’t been to one yet where the ole boy ever starved to death. He might have worried himself to death, but he didn’t starve.

So let us count our blessings and not our problems, the Lord will take care of us.

Hope to see you all at the next Storyteller’s Meeting in Pretty Prairie, KS
November 5,2011!                              
                                                            Ralph Chain

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