By Doris Schroeder
I’m not speaking of the cattle drives in Dodge City in the 1860 era, although my family did live in Dodge between the first and second year of my life in 1933-34. When we lived on the family farm between ‘43 and ‘46, we had our own version of cattle drives, but of course, there weren’t hundreds of milling livestock!
We moved to the farm after my year of Allen School Kindergarten. When my Dad told me we would be moving there, I had visions of being a cowgirl and riding a horse. He listened to my dreams and never downed my desire to be a cowgirl, he just smiled and said “We’ll see!”
Both my Mom and I had a lot to learn. We had some chickens we had to feed twice a day, eggs to gather, pigs to bring buckets of feed to in their trough and make sure we wouldn’t get knocked down when they ate like the animals they were…hogs. Most of all, we had to get the cows in from the pasture (my job) and get them into the milking part of the barn. Of course, during that time, my little sister Carol arrived in this world so many times, it was Dad I helped when he was home from his job in Hutch. My job was to give the light by carrying the lantern.
While he was milking, I sometimes went into the middle part of the barn and sang the songs I had learned at the country school. Sometimes the cattle would listen but mostly they kept chewing their cud and looked at me with the most expressionless look on their face. I do believe they had no idea whether I was a cowgirl or not and it didn’t matter to them.
We did move to California a year and a half and then came back to the farm, my favorite place. One Sunday we came back from attending church in Hutch, I was in the back seat of our ‘39 Mercury when Dad noticed all our cattle had gotten out through a hole in the pasture fence and were grazing on the wheat field of our neighbors across the road.
My Dad, who usually didn’t show a lot of anger and without stopping to let the family off, drove the car out on the wheat field after the naughty cattle and accidentally hit the back leg of a grown heifer, breaking his leg.
When he realized what he had done, he got the rest of the cattle back home, and called the neighbor Abe Ratzlaff, and asked if he could come over and help butcher the heifer that Sunday afternoon. I felt so bad I stayed in my lone upstairs bedroom and covered my ears when they shot the heifer. I really wasn’t mad at my Dad but felt so bad for the heifer and for events that caused the accident. I knew how hard Dad had to work and how bad it felt that things didn’t always work out. That was the biggest cattle round up we had on the farm.
Another time was when I forgot something important. When Dad worked in the evening in Hutch, he would sometimes let the cattle out on the wheat field before he left for work in the middle of the afternoon. It was my job to round them up after I got home from school and somehow I forgot.
That night when he got home and found the cattle missing, he had to call all the neighbor farms to see if they had seem our missing critters. Finally he located them and got them home, much to my relief. That time the number in our cattle drive was probably around twenty four and that to me, was enough, especially since it was my fault!
I felt I wanted to help as much as I could so I would work on the pasture fences to try to fix them wherever the wire was loose. I think it helped some but it certainly could have been better.
In the 40s life was pretty tough but it was earnest. There was no time to think of bad things. That is why I am so glad I could grow up in that era. We relied on God more and we were not distracted by TVs or even radio in those days. Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to live the simpler life again.
The good thing, however, if you have made God a part of your life by accepting him, He wants to help in every kind of endeavor, even in the cattle drives of the past!
Doris appreciates your comments and can be reached at [email protected]