From Our Mailbox 2-8-10
February 8, 2010
After reading Lee Pitts’ article in the Jan. 11, 2010 issue of the Fence Post, I realized how lucky we really were to be raised on a ranch, with its work ethic and its freedom too.
Memories of ranch life
The old Johnson ranch in western Kansas was bought and developed in 1887. The land was a 1/2-mile wide and about 4 miles long, along the Arkansas River. The ranch house was built of native stone and the walls were 2-1/2-feet thick. My step-grandfather built most of it. Previously he had spent 10 years catching wild horses, breaking and training them for buyers back east, according to “Western Kansas History” (published by Joan Shaw in 1947). His refined wife, an eastern lady, had said “No tent life, we are building a ranch.”
This ranch is where I grew up from age 10 to 16.
If an old house could talk it would have many tales and good memories.
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This was a ranch that never had a mortgage against it. It was there that I bought my first calf – which added up to 12 by my first year in college at Kansas State in Hays, Kan.
At the ranch I had many firsts … my first room of my own, the first time I got to have a buddy stay for the weekend and my first rifle (that I won on a 25-cent raffle ticket.) My first hunting trips … where we hunted ducks, pheasants, coyotes and rabbits, all on our own land. I even had my own swimming pool – a very large irrigation pond that was ice cold.
My first time branding and roping calves also took place on the ranch. It was my job to follow the rope and throw a 4 or 5 month old calf on its side. Careful not to get on the kicking end – you learn that real fast.
I thought if I ever got off the ranch, how happy I would be. Oh, to be in town, go to the shows and not eat homemade bread. How dumb was I then and how lucky for me they kept me down on the ranch for several years.
The ranch remained in the family for about 100 years but it was sadly split up and sold.
I was there in 1990 and all that was left were the ranch house walls, looking sad and on its way down.
When it is finally no more, who will ever know how special and necessary it was for me?
Just the memories that were so special to a would be young cowboy growing up there, 70 years ago.
How blessed I was!