My son Aaron manages an ethanol plant in eastern South
Dakota, a job with a lot of responsibility and stress. He goes hunting which
affords his some relief from work. This year he went out to the western part of the
state to hunt antelope, at a ranch northwest of the Badlands and northeast
of Rapid City.
Antelope have keen
eyesight, and as I understand it, keep to the open range for their protection.
That way they can see danger approaching from a distance.
Aaron came upon a
herd, some of which bolted, running around a hill, a rise in the ground he was
crossed over the hill to try to head them off, as he anticipated their move. They came
around running at full speed. It wasn't an easy shot, but he was able to
bring one down and dispatch him.
Within days, after he
returned home, a heavy snowstorm dumped three feet of snow on the ranch.
Snow so deep it was like an avalanche in the draws where cattle sought
shelter. Some cattle and antelope perished in the snow. And there was the
need to get feed to those surviving.
It reminds me of the
time when my brother Francie was in the Air Force, during the winter of
1948-49. He was traveling back to base by train, when their train became
snowbound on the tracks. They were stranded out in the open, 16 miles from
the nearest town and were hungry. Francie and a companion saw a shack in the
distance, about a mile away. They got off the train and trekked to it. The
occupants welcomed them and Francie said they were so good to them. They made
them a kind of pancake which they took back to the train to share with
others aboard, who probably were watching them from the train windows as
they walked the distance across the snow. In trade, they had given the
people in the shack some cigarettes.
When train was dug
out and able to move again, they continued on their trip, and he reached his
base. He was
stationed at Las Vegas Air Force Base. After he got back, he was assigned to
a military food operation. Cattle in northern Nevada were in snow too deep
to get feed to them. So the Air Force flew it to them.
Hay bales were
trucked onto the base, and they loaded them onto C-54 "flying box
cars," and C-47, two-engine transports. The planes took off with their cargo
of hay, and the airman dropped the bales to the cattle below. Sometimes the
bales would break apart as they fell. For their safety, he says they were
tethered inside so they wouldn't fall out . They had to unload their cargo
in such a way that it wouldn't unbalance the aircraft.
From the C-47's they
would push the hay out a side door. The flying box cars had doors which
opened in back, and they would shove the hay out the back. Sometimes the
force of the wind aloft would rip the doors off. He says they lost a lot of
doors that way. Of course that left him and other airmen inside exposed to
the chill of the elements.
My brother was used
to handling hay from having grown up on a farm in Iowa. In remembering back,
he thinks it could have been a type of hay called alfalfa,
a hay we put up for winter on the farm. At times we had snow so deep in Iowa
that it drifted and blocked the road to the south, the usual and shortest
way we got to town. They even cut fence to get around the drifted roadway.
My brothers harnessed up a horse to a buggy, bundled up themselves and took
cream to town, which had been separated from the milk of our dairy herd. They went to town by
road, the long way around the square-mile section of land that our farm was
on. They painted a sign on the buggy: “Speedy Cry”, for Speedy Creamery.
The horse was one we
called Dolly, white and gray. Dolly was blind but my brother said she knew
the way. He said if you let Dolly loose within a couple miles of home, she
would be able to find her way back. When the train was stranded, he might've wished he had her to use
that snowy winter out West.