Meanwhile Back at the Ranch
By Liz Taylor
January 9, 1980
Mouse River Farmers Press, Towner, N.D.
A few days ago Roger Domres called from the press office, and asked if I would be interested in writing a weekly column for the paper. I think he was somewhat stunned by my quick, affirmative reply as he probably didn’t realize that a person who has been known to write irate letters to newspapers, and also opinion articles, is always ready to write anything, anytime, except personal letters!
Roger left the column heading up to me and I am using one that I have used occasionally in the past, “Meanwhile, back at the ranch….” And since I had to explain it to my children and as I hope some of the readers are younger than me, I thought I would explain it to all. This phrase is common to listeners of the “Lone Ranger” radio show, and fans of Gene Autry and Roy Rogers movies of years ago. Quite simply it meant that while rustlers, horse thieves and bank robbers were at work all around, “Meanwhile, back at the ranch,” things were going on as before, plus the ranchers were readying themselves for any problems which might result from outside influences.
Today you will find the same things prevail; it could be “back at the ranch,” or “down on the farm” but life goes on pretty much as usual, whether auto workers strike, an earthquake shatters Chile, or a hurricane strikes Cuba. We care, but we also have to harvest crops and feed animals no matter what goes on around us. Sometimes life is simple, sometimes it is really difficult, but it does go on and you do what you have to do and give it your best shot.
As I write this, we have a truly typical North Dakota blizzard, with promise of a foot or more of new snow, winds gusting to 50 mph, and the storm is to be followed by dropping temperatures in the 20 to 30 below area. There is one thing unusual about this storm…it is really the first one we’ve had in a winter of remarkable warmth and stillness. A lot of people feel that God is responsible for everything that touches our lives, including this storm, but I like to think He has more important things to look after, such as problems in Iran and Afghanistan. That being the case, perhaps He turned North Dakota’s weather over to some subordinates (i.e. Heavenly bureaucrats), the same ones responsible for the fact that my teeth wore out before the rest of my bones. And these hirelings of the Lord were just too busy doing nothing to remember winter was supposed to be sort of tough in North Dakota…and because of their neglect we had to endure temperatures in the 40’s above many days in November and December. What little snow we had disappeared and there were moments of fear that people would start moving here from California and Florida.
Finally one of the aforementioned ecclesiastical clerks looked down on January 6 and said, “My Goodness!” (you didn’t think he would say ‘My God!’ did you?) “Look at North Dakota, it’s all bare and warm. By now they should have had at least 4 or 5 snow storms…and here it’s January. Let’s give them a humdinger.”
Actually the reason I know it’s a humdinger is because Bud just came in from outside followed by a blast of cold air and snow saying, “Boy! It’s a humdinger out there!”
As I write this I think about my good friend, Fern Lee, who said years ago, “If you write a column on Sunday telling about how bad the weather is, it will surely be nice on Thursday when the paper is read…”
Therefore, if the weather is nice on Thursday, it’s because I wrote how bad it was on Sunday. If the weather is bad…well, I guess Fern was wrong! In any event our winter so far has been a real gift for the animals and the people who care for them in the winter months. And the snow we have now will make life more pleasant for those who own and operate skiing areas…and those whose idea of a good time is buzzing around the countryside on snowmobiles.
Folks who keep track of such things as winters past may say that we’ve had more pleasant Novembers and Decembers than 1979, but I recall only one. It must have been in the early 1940’s as I was about 8 or 9 years old.
I walked across the pasture to our country school with my brothers and sisters to take part in our Christmas program. There was no snow on the ground and the temperature was about 30 above. I wasn’t wearing overshoes which could have been because of the weather or because I didn’t have any.
Next Week…“Nostalgia and the country school.”