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Posted 12/22/10 (Wed)


Winter is here. The snow is getting deeper. The wind colder. It’s only the third week in December and I’m counting bales in the stack and waiting for a chinook! Forecast for another eight inches of snow today!
You know, winters just aren’t like they used to be. That’s what we all say. It used to be colder and snowier. But, again this morning, it looks like Shirley maybe froze her cheeks. The wind chill has been 20 to 50 below quite a few days lately. But it used to be a lot worse.
Or maybe it just seems like it used to be a lot worse. Back before four-wheel drive pickups and tractors with cabs. I imagine if you were feeding with a team, and pitching sweet clover hay out of a haystack, it would seem a lot worse. But as I was getting a tank of number one diesel yesterday, for nearly four bucks a gallon, I was starting to kind of lean toward a team again.
You know, Shirley says every year I go through this phase. I decide I want a team. I’ve had Ben and Bill, Coors and Coors Lite, Ben and Buck, Thelma and Louise, and some I can’t recall the name of. Cause I couldn’t drive them.
And then in the spring, I decide I want a milk cow. Not for me. For Shirley. And she doesn’t like to milk cows. And I don’t like to drink it. But, it’s like some kind of addiction. I just can’t help it.
Just sitting here recalling, kind of brings a smile to my face. I know there have to be some of you out there who grew up driving horses, or pitching loose hay. Or taking a load of square bales out to the cows on a cold winter morning.
I remember one Christmas morning; I suppose fifty years ago or so. Dad was feeding cows over by the lake. He had a good sorrel team that had made the trip a lot of times. It was about ten below and a light snow was falling. We, well, he loaded that sled up with little squares and we hunkered down in the hay and clucked to that team. They put their heads down and took off down a winding sled trail toward the lake. I suppose it was only a mile or two, but when you’re little, it seemed like a long way.
As we came over the hill toward the lake, the cows got up off their beds and bellowed at us, and came trudging through the snow. Then Dad let out an exclamation and pointed. The last cow coming had a little Hereford calf following her. It was a little heifer calf. You can say what you want about them old Hereford cattle, but they made it through a lot of Dakota winters and bought a lot of ranches.
We named that cow Christmas and kept her for a lot of years. Still have a picture of her hanging on the fridge. Right up there with the grandkids. Some people would say we’re sick. But she was a darn good cow.
And that reminds me, and I know I’ve told you this story before, but I like it. When Bennie was sick, his wife, Betty, did the chores. She was pitching hay to about three hundred cows and getting the kids to school. She would get up about four in the morning, bake bread, make a breakfast, take care of Bennie, get the kids to school, and then feed three hundred cows. She would get the kids home from school, do their homework, feed the saddle horses and the pail calves, clean Bennie up, make supper, and clean the house. Next morning, the same thing. And a lot of pitching hay out of a loose stack. Which, if you’ve done it, is no small task. I don’t think you overfed in those days.
Along about spring, Betty was feeling pretty down. So, she drove into the doctor at Watford one day for a checkup. The doctor checked her over and determined she needed more exercise!
And I think maybe that is what Shirley needs!

Merry Christmas!