Skip to main content

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


Popular posts from this blog

Resolution Reccomendation

Cease from Anger.
That’s what my daughters suggested I do when one of them had the idea that we exchange New Year’s resolution recommendations for each other. Brad thought that was a bad idea, but we did it anyway.
They think I’ve been overly distressed. A little angry. Afraid I’m going to “stroke out.”
Well I probably am, have been, will continue to be, will try and work on it, and probably will.
But I’m betting that anyone that realizes what’s going on in our country is probably feeling pretty angry right now too. If not, ignorance is bliss, or they have a government job.
I’ve experienced a lot of emotions during my life: sadness, jealousy, embarrassment, fear, and anger to some degree.
Anger doesn’t just occur. It stems from something. I believe in my case it’s fear and frustration.
I grew up during the Cold War. Nothing was more feared than the A bomb during the 50’s and nothing scared me more than the “test” performed daily on our black and white T.V. suggesting that “i…

It's Life

This is my backyard. This is our office. It's located in my backyard. So are the loading chutes, sheds, barns, silos and molasses tanks (tanks full of molasses that cattle find extremely tasty and nutritious.) Loading cattle here has been a common sight for as long as I can remember.
Tonight we loaded bulls. It started to snow when they were loading. I hope the driver and the bulls get to their destination safely.
The bulls have been in my backyard for several weeks. Getting fat. Getting ready to go north. Getting ready to...uh... go to slaughter, or should I say "harvest." Not too long ago that word reminded me of wheat. Kind of like the word "gay" used to make me think of someone happy.
Anyway, today our "politically correct" friends recommend we don't refer to the word that actually describes what has taken place since Adam and Eve. The word that describes what has taken place for centuries to insure human survival. No, today we mus…

Back In The Saddle...Almost

I’m back…for a while, barring I don’t slip on another tutu or fall over another tombstone.
The morning after Easter 5:45 a.m. to be exact, I slipped on a princess tutu and tore my rotator cuff. In June I had surgery and spent the summer going to physical therapy three times a week 60 miles away.In August my Grandmother Hazel passed away.She had lived a long, happy, successful, life.She was 96 years old and it was hard to say goodbye to one of my best friends.
My shoulder was on the mend, but at Grandma’s graveside service I fell over a tombstone.During the service I’d been watching near misses and worried about someone tripping over the one on my end of the tent.I didn’t realize there was another on the other end.Remember I have 10 grandkids, 7 of them under the age of 7.I had my hands full of water bottles, mine and theirs. As I hurried out of the tent to speak to some relatives I fell head, neck and face first over the tombstone my rear and high heels in the air and my mouth full of …