Thursday, December 17, 2009

The dirty 30's

I just finished reading the above I have to spell out the title, or can you figure it out for yourselves?

Growing up, I frequently heard the phrase "in the 30's, we..." or "during the depression, we didn't..." even "we were poor, but so was everyone, so we didn't know we were poor."

My Woodruff Grandparents were in their 20's and 30's during the depression, raising 6 of their 7 children (my dad was born in 1943). My Berend's grandparents were growing up during the 30's. (Yes, my Woodruff Grandparents were old enough to be the parents of my Berends grandparents.) Anyway...I heard the '30's referenced quite often. I even asked my Woodruff Grandparents if they remembered "Black Sunday." They did, they were at Church when the storm hit. But...somehow, we never got around to what they did during that dust storm...

I heard stories about no money, sleeping together in one bed to stay warm during the winter months, eating wonderful concoctions like onion gravy. Having nothing to eat but eggs, having two pair of pants to wear, etc. I know my Grandad W. left home for a while to work with the CCC, leaving Grandma at home with the kids. I'm sure if I think about it, I can probably remember more stories because I loved listening to my elders tell stories about when they were young. I still do love hearing people's stories.

But, the 30's in Western Kansas and Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle were worse than what was even shared with me. Worst Hard Time tells about the settlement of the Oklahoma and Texas Panhandles, and concentrates primarily on Cimarron County Oklahoma and the Texas town of Dalhart, both in some of the hardest hit areas. Both are further west and south of my home stomping grounds.

The book starts out explaining the settlement of this area at the turn of the 20th century. Until then, it had been left to the Indians and cattle ranchers. West of the 100th meridian, this area averages 16 inches of rain each year. Not prime farm country. And yet, farmers came to the area, plowed up the native prairie and planted wheat. The twenties were wet years, and farmers plowed up more and more ground to make more and more money. And then, the price dropped and they couldn't sell their crops, and then a drought hit. A 10 year drought. Droughts are not that uncommon, but with the ground plowed up, there was nothing to hold the dirt down when the wind blew --and it did. A couple of storms blew the dirt clear to the East coast.

Washington didn't do much to help the "dusters" until 1936. They did buy up livestock prior to that, starving livestock, but no one tried to stop the dust storms until late in the 30's. Then, people started plowing differently and the CCC came out to plant trees--shelter belts--to try to protect the land. Soil Conservation began in the late 30's. The government also bought out many farmers in the far western regions and planted grass to try to restore the prairie. (The Cimarron National Grasslands is a reserve made up of former farms in far Southwest Kansas and Eastern Colorado.) Some ground is still sterile in parts of the Oklahoma and Texas Panhandles. No one knew what to do with this environment.

I didn't know that people actually died from the dust. They'd get lost in dust storms--just like they would in blizzards. Instead of freezing, they'd choke on the dust. Dust pneumonia was a common cause of death for babies and the elderly. Eventually, folks had to leave. Most who left the Panhandle areas did not go to California. They tended to go east.

I have to say, that I really enjoyed reading this book--yes, it's non fiction, but it's very entertaining reading. The author tells a story and he doesn't bog it down with facts and statistics or even footnotes. (Yes, there are notes in the back of the book, and yes, there's a good bibliography, but the book reads almost like a novel.)

Dust storms didn't disappear after the 30's. This is a photo I took at our place in Colby of a dust storm coming in. It was May, 2004. Once the storm hit, it got pitch black outside and was dusky for about an hour or so. This was a little storm, lasting a couple of hours. We were in a drought. And, as well built as our house was, we had our share of fine dust and silt in the house.

An older couple (in their late 80's, early 90's) stopped at our house when they saw the storm coming. They said it was just like what they had day after day after day in the 30's. And, visiting with them, I knew that they were remembering their youth when they fought to survive during the 30's, and I knew that their experiences were something foreign to me.

After reading this book, it's an experience I hope no one had to endure ever again. Pick it up--I think you'll find it a good read.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Huntin' with Shell...Episode 7

By now, I know you all realize how great of a hunter I am. Why, the Outdoor Network is on the phone with me daily, wanting me to sign a contract and film all my wondrously exciting hunts. I rank right up there with their female hunters--I'm young, sexy, cute, and a good hunter too. Right? Right? (ok, stop laughing! I was ONCE young, and sexy, and maybe even cute!)

Unfortunately, If they ever contacted me about a show, it would be titled "How not to kill a deer." Cause that apparently, is all I'm good at!

But, in my defense, don't the deer have to come close enough to shoot at? Don't the deer have to cooperate? Man, maybe these stupid deer are related to my kids, cause my kids don't cooperate with me either.

I'm doomed.

I've got three more weekends to get a deer. And, since I have two weeks off from work over the holidays, I guess I could go out every day if I wanted to...cept I'd have to go alone and I really don't like to go alone cause it's more fun to share the excitement. Whoo hoo! It's so exciting to sit in the pasture day after day, hour after hour and see...

nuthin. Why, people are lined up wanting to do that!

This weekend was a perfect example.

I was by my sagebrush before 7. Since it was cold (finally) I was wearing 40 extra lbs. of clothing for warmth. (And I could feel it too! I haven't waddled this bad since I was 10 months pregnant with Miss Kat!)

At 7:30, I scoped the area, looking for those pesky deer. And, Lo, there were 2 does. Over at the tree row. The tree row in which I sat last year. The tree row where no one came to visit me last year. Oh, sure...that tree row wasn't good enough last year, but this year, they like it.

I think it's personal. I think that I must have one of those flashing neon signs above my head with an arrow pointing down to me. You know, those signs that magically appear in cartoons? Yep. One of those points at me and flashes "Here's that female hunter. Go somewhere else." The deer see the sign, read it, and go somewhere else. And these two does? They saw the sign, and never came close to me. In fact, after seeing the sign, they turned around and walked in the opposite direction.

And, that's all I saw.

It's getting rather discouraging.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


Today the temperature is something like 6 degrees. Windchill is -20 something. When it's that cold, does the specific windchill temperature really matter? I don't think so.

Today, while driving slowly to work, I saw

2 cowboys

on horseback

moving cattle.

I'm not sure who I feel the sorriest for, the cowboys or the horses.

Stay warm everyone.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Hunting with Shell Episode...6?

For all the serious deer hunters, I apologize this week.

I didn't go deer hunting. Instead, I partook of that female ritual that involves shopping malls and big cities full of rabid women looking for a good deal.

Yes, I went Christmas shopping.

My Mom, my Aunt Sandy and I took off early Saturday morning to shop in the big city. Except for most of urban America, the big city where we shopped is a small town. But to us rural dwellers, it's a big city. Any town with a population over 10,000 is a city. BIG cities have a population over 30,000. Gi-normous cities are those with populations over 500,000. Those cities, I avoid whenever possible. I'm pretty good at avoiding those cities. Makes my life much less stressful.

So, we went the Big city, not the Gi-normous city. We braved the crowds and the crazy bargain hunters. It wasn't too bad. I got most of my Christmas shopping finished. Still need to get something for my nephews and one gift for Miss Kat and one for Andy. Well... that and their stocking stuffers which are usually candy for Miss Kat and Sunflower seeds for Andy.

The best part of the shopping trip was spending time with my Mom and Sandy. I like both of them--even if they weren't family! We spent the night at Sandy's house and I have to say that I'm jealous of her ability to incorporate all of Grandma and Grandpa's stuff into her decor. And her house is clean! It's a very comfortable, homey house, and I've always felt comfortable there.

So, while I didn't bag a deer this weekend, I did bag some important gifts and even some "girl time."

Hunting season is winding down. Kev has pointed out that I've only got 3 or 4 more weekends to get out there and get a deer. He's such a slave driver :) So, stay tuned for next week's episode when we'll once again return to the wilds in search of that trophy deer.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

This week on Huntin' with Shell

I do realize that today is Wednesday, and I went hunting three and four days ago.

Which should really be a clue as to how my hunting weekend went.

But, before we hear about this weekend's hunt, we need to update you on the previous weekend's hunt...Kev's hunt.

We were going out of town and my goal was to leave Saturday morning around 10 a.m. That would get us to Hutchinson around noon, right in time for Bob's home cooked lunch. But, that was not to be.

Kev just had to go out hunting. He didn't figure he'd see anything, but he had to go out just in case that monster buck came through the draw. He left at 5 a.m. At 7:30, I decided to get into the tub and then get the kids up and ready to go. The phone rang about 10 minutes later. It was Kev. He'd shot a stupid deer.

Now, I'm not upset that he got a deer, but dang, the timing wasn't optimal for me. (and it's all about me.)

Kev needed Andy and I to drive over because he thought his deer had gone down into the draw and he was afraid we'd have to track him, or worse, drag him up out of that draw which is rather deep and steep. So, Andy and I got dressed and ventured out.

It was foggy. Extremely foggy. Since Andy wasn't sure how to get to the ranch, I had to watch the road and give directions. We got there fine and walked the half mile to where Kev was hunting.

Once we got there, Kev said that he saw the buck head down toward the draw, and a few minutes later, saw him come back up to the wheat field. So, Kev was concerned that he didn't die quickly and that we'd have to track. So, we started following the blood trail (and it was a good trail) and quickly found his buck.

He didn't kill the Monster, but got a nice 200 lb. Mule deer--3 x 4 antlers. The deer died quickly, and we decided that the buck Kev saw after shooting was a second buck who heard the commotion and came to investigate. (It was so blasted foggy that you couldn't see 50 yards.) The menfolk gutted the deer, and then we started back for the pickup. Dragging that stupid deer.

Let me tell you...dragging 200 lbs of dead weight, through a wheat field for half a mile isn't fun. It's hard exhausting work. And by the time we saw the pickup appear through the fog, we were three happy exhausted people. It took us a good 30 minutes or more to drag that deer out.

At that time, Kev and I decided that we were buying a 4 wheeler. No ifs, ands, or buts.

We got home, hung the deer up in the shop, and went on our trip. Which brings us back to the real star of the show...ME... (remember, it's all about me!)

Saturday, Kev and I went to the Hill to hunt. I really would like to get a deer at the hill...for me and for Grandpa...

We sat there until 9-9:30. Nothing. We did see three deer about a mile away, but they wouldn't come play with us. Before we left, we walked up around the house and the tree row. Found lots of little trees that have been destroyed by bucks polishing antlers, and we found lots to scraps. So, we know they are there (we've even SEEN them...just not today.)

As we left, Kev asked if I wanted to take the long way home and go up by the farm. Fine with me, so we headed west and then north. And, then we decided to just venture further west and further north to a small town with a Polaris dealership.
And we bagged this....

We got a great deal too. So, we loaded it up, and took it home. It's sitting in the garage (and the cars are outside...we have our priorities....)
Kev's excited, the kids are excited. Me, I'm scared of the darn thing! But, this does mean that I won't have to drag out a 200 lb. deer ever again. And that's exciting.


It's Basketball season. Miss Kat is playing this year. She's starting B team and usually gets a couple minutes in at every A team game. The A team girls are really good. I expect to see them go undefeated.
Kev loves Basketball. He was so excited about his daughter playing BB, but before the season, she announced that she was not going out. Her dad was disappointed. So...he bribed her. He told her that if she played BB, and really tried, he'd pay her $100. That was to tempting to Miss Kat, so she went out. And, Dad gave her $50 at the start of the season and the other $50 will go into her savings account.
I can't say that Miss Kat will ever be a Basketball star. She's not hating the game, but she doesn't really enjoy it either. I'd guess that this, her 8th grade season will be her last. Her dad will just have to adopt some other girl and some other boy to watch.
I will say that if she wanted to, Miss Kat could be a really good player. But...I don't think she wants to be a really good player.
I guess it doesn't matter if she's the best player or not because she does have the coolest Basketball shoes. And at our house, having the coolest shoes is really all that matters!