I’m too young to remember the good old days. I guess they were in the early 1900’s. When you didn’t have snowplows and four wheel drive tractors. You didn’t have snow blowers and insulated underwear. You didn’t have front-end loaders and sanded highways to drive on.
If you wanted to get to your neighbors on a morning like yesterday when it was –27, you harnessed a team up, threw a scoop shovel on the sled in case the team played out in a drift, wrapped a towel around your face and headed out. Those were the good old days!
I am old enough to remember feeding cattle with a team. And there still are a few cowboys that do it. And dang, I have a lot of respect for them! They might have frozen cheeks and stiff joints, but they probably don’t have a note at the bank. They might have stiff fingers with a touch of arthritis in them, but they can throw a cold, stiff harness on the team that’s eating a bait of grain while I am jump starting a loader tractor and worrying about the fuel gelling up.
Even yesterday, I had a touch of nostalgia. I wasn’t that cold. I was in a heated cab on a four-wheel drive tractor. But it was the weekend. So Shirley was here for chores. And for Christmas she got one of those bracelet deals that tell you how much exercise you are getting. I don’t need one. I can tell by nighttime if I have had enough exercise. It’s called being tired.
But since Shirley had this bracelet on, I thought she should get a little exercise. So she wrapped up and came out to open gates and cut the twine off bales as I fed. And I could throw the axe out to her and point at a water tank that needed the ice chopped off it. She could feed the cats when I threw a can out of the cab and pointed to the tack room where my two mousers sleep on a heated pad. They lie in wait for a mouse that may or may not come along. There hasn’t been a mouse in there for years. But there is dry cat food, a can of moist food in the morning, and a heated pad. It’s a cat’s life.
People talk about the good old days. They yearn for yesterday. And some people talk about how pretty winter days can be. They talk of how the prairies can look like an ocean! With waves! And how the sundogs can look so beautiful as they accompany the frozen sun on the eastern horizon! Poppycock.
What looks beautiful to me is a woman with insulated boots, carhart coveralls, a facemask, a rabbit lined cap, and mittens on opening the gate and chopping ice. I mean it even beats the Victoria’s Secret catalog, or the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition!
Dean Meyer is a former legislator and ranches in southwest North Dakota. He has been a columnist around the state for years.