Colorado - Our New Home

by Jean Wayt

Dad and Uncle Jigg were introduced to a Real Estate man, Abe Winograd, who showed and sold them two adjoining farms located southwest of Limon, as they were in partnership with each other. The Federal Land Bank of Witchita, Kansas, owned them, as it did so many other farms around the country. The Great Depression hadn’t been over too long before and there were so many people who could not earn a living on their farms so had to lose them back to the banks.There were many hard times ahead for everybody, as the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7,1941 and the United States was at war.

We were all happy to get our new homes but boy, we had no idea what hard times were staring us in the face. Our home had been homesteaded by some guy named Hill in 1880 and consisted of 160 acres of native grassland surrounded by many springs and the water was cold, pure, soft and tasty. So tasty that in fact Hill used it in his still. In 1927 his still blew up and burned the house down. He re-built another house right over the basement but neglected to remove the old burned and rusted Home Comfort cook stove first. It was still sitting there when we moved in. Removing it piece by piece was the first chore Dad did. There was also a spring cast in cement in the basement and water was pumped upstairs by a little "picture pump", and sat on a counter by a big white sink with a hole in the center to hold the plug. We set a 5 gallon bucket under the drain that had to be emptied every day. We used a dishpan to wash dishes and then throw the water out in the yard to water the flowers. Shortly after the house was re-built Hill sold the place to John Godley. John purchased a half section of farm ground bordering our grassland on the south making it 480 acres total. Sometime between 1927 and 1939, when we bought the place, John had lost it back to the Federal Land Bank.

No electric and we hardly even knew what a phone was, our only light was kerosene lights, and a coal heater sitting in the front room was the heat source. The doors were all closed to the front room at bedtime to keep the heat in there. Do you have any idea what it’s like waking up in a bedroom that was only fifty-some degrees? It wasn’t much fun. We all fought over who would get to the warmest spot around the heater and by that time mom would the old Home Comfort cook stove loaded up and putting out more heat.

Sometimes when a blizzard hit and we would get snowed in for two or three days and had run out of kerosene, we would have to use a grease light. I know that most of you have no idea what a grease light is, so I’ll try to explain it to you. You nail a small shelf in the wall about 5 feet high where a pan, usually an old pie tin, would sit. Mom would have a grease can standing near the cook stove where she would pour the grease drippings from the pan as she cooked. By the way, you NEVER threw any drippings away! They would be used to flavor certain foods and when it got full Dad would take it, put a lid on it and take it to the barn. It was the best medicine there was for doctoring horses and cattle for rope burns and most anything else. He also carried one in the horse trailer. Back to my story: she'd pour a cup or so of grease in the pan, take an old rag about 6 or 8 inches long by 4 or 5 inches wide and tie 2 or 3 knots in it, leaving about 2 inches of one end free for the wick. She would soak it real good in the grease, lay it in the pan and light the 2 inch wick. Well you had light…. and you had smoke too!! Thank God that only happened a very few times. But under the terrible circumstances you had to make do. Please remember that we were not alone in this venture as there were many many families that had the same hard times.

But through the years things were improving. The Rural Electric Association came through the country and we had electric. How glorious it was. Shortly afterwards the telephone poles were going up and we had a phone. But along with better times we still had to battle snow and blizzards. I never have forgotten the worst winter we ever had during the 33 years we lived there. It happened in 1947, give or take a year, when a blizzard hit and snowed and blowed for 3 days. The barn set down about 300 yards from the house and the guys could hardly make it to the barn and back twice a day to take care of the livestock. I won’t even mention the "outhouse"! Meanwhile every morning Mom would put a large pot of beans on the Home Comfort stove and they would simmer all day and when eating time would come she would have a big pan of cornbread to go with it. We would all gather in the front room and sit or lay on the floor in a circle and play pinochle… all day!!!

When it all cleared up, my what a sight it was! When the men got to the barn the horses were fine as they had been stalled in the barn, but they couldn’t find about 6 head of cows that had been in a corral that had a 20 foot long shed that was attached to the barn with an opening of about 7 or 8 in the front. It was drifted almost full of snow but they saw an opening about 8 inches round with steam coming out of it. They started digging and saw the cows crowded together but couldn’t move.They realized that the hole was from their breathing and had kept them alive. When they got them all dug out they found they had "weathered the storm" and all were fine. The rest of the winter we walked over the top of fences and the clothes line had about a foot clearance and again I won’t even talk about the "out-house"! Never in the 33 years that we lived there did it ever happen again. Thank the Lord!

Through the years Dad and Jigg started to farm but it a real slow process as they hadn't farmed for so long, it was like starting over again but they still knew the basics. They picked up some old odds and ends of machinery and got a couple of horses that definitely had seen their days, that we called Nig and Beverly but gradually were able to get better machinery and horses. They raised beans, a good dry land crop. They had a two-row planter but no weeding machine, so the whole two families weeded the field with hoes by hand. We also ate lots of beans; green in the summer and dried in the winter. Green beans never has been my first choice of vegetables even now!

As the years improved, tractors were the things to have so the horses were put out to pasture. By then Dad and Jigg had collected quite a herd of real good mostly Percheron work horses. I can still remember all their names. Then there was Buck. A beautiful Palomino gelding that was 17 and a half or 18 hands tall, and I kid you not. You could look at him standing among the rest of the herd and he looked like a giraffe when he held his head up looking around! There was at least 10 head that Dad and Jigg had to sell to the dog food company and that was a very hard thing for them to do having loved horses all their life. But so goes life on the farm.

Mom decided to do some canning, something she knew absolutely nothing about. But a sweet neighbor, Mrs. Swanson, took pity on us and probably saved our lives, and taught Mom the basics of home canning. But learn to can she did. It was a good thing too because had it not been for a basement full of canned goods, we wouldn’t have eaten nearly so good during the bad times we had. Sometimes we didn’t have much of an assortment but we had a lot. One year the only kind of jelly mom put up was grape. There were many times when that was all we had for school sandwiches and do you know what a grape jelly sandwich looks like after it had been been made for about 3 hours? Not purple, but red soggy sandwiches.

As years went on Dad and Jigg bought 500 acres of good grass land and that made the places end up with a thousand acres. As Dad and Jigg got up in the years they decided to split it up making two separate places and we all were thankful they did. I know this story sounds pretty drab making you wonder if our whole life was like that, but believe me for every hard experience we had we were blessed with hundreds of the good ones. I know that the young generation will find this hard to believe and I’m glad they will never have to. But folks I’m here to say they did happen and I lived it.