As we drove to the school, bus stop, heat blowing comfortably in our laps, we have frequent stops for the wildlife crossing the road along with cattle. This particular day a sow and her shiny clean kits in tow scrambled across, just half pints of mama. “Aw…!” resounded inside the Yukon, The four masked bandits were headed for the creek from the draw behind our house, a common highway for wildlife. A month ago I saw a huge boar out in the pasture and now I wonder if that wasn’t dad.
It is a long ride, over an hour each way. This morning I felt reminiscent recalling the stories told by my grandmothers. Their school bus was far different than the ones of today. They rode a school wagon. It was a horse drawn wooden box on wheels. My grandmother on my mom’s side told me that her’s had a long bench that ran the length each side, steps up the rear. I wonder now if it had a roof? Why did I not think to ask. Can you imagine how cold that was? It doesn’t take much imagination for me to realize on some days for grandma, it was a tough ride. I know how cold it is to herd cattle in the winter riding horse back, your feet freeze off or at least it feels like it in thin cowboy boots. It isn’t warm either to feed calves winter mornings with Belgian horses pulling a wagon full of hay except when you’re throwing hay bales. All experiences my grandkids have never had as I did as a child.
My father-in-law rode horseback several miles from the ranch to the one room country school in Montana. He complained that his worthless nag would run away or jump the neighbor’s gate to try and dump him. Nope, Tar Baby wasn’t too easy to stick to when riding bareback. I asked about a saddle but they don’t come cheap, especially during The Great Depression. Besides, a saddle is impossible to put on when you are small, something I know from experience. My brother and I’d neglected the bridle too when we could get away with it. The thing my mother hated most though was when we’d jump the irrigation canal on horseback, which was deep and wide and the horses always fell in. We made sure of it. I remember those scoldings, “You could have gotten hurt…….!!!!” You might of had a few of those lectures yourself.
My little dark haired, English grandma used to tell me stories about riding the bus. What she must have meant was a wagon too because she would have started school in 1912 or 13. The Model T became available for the masses in 1908 and this was a farm community, money was scarce. Grandma would complained about this boy on the bus who lived down the road and would always pull her pigtails. Then she’d get a glint in her eye and tell me she married him.
He was my Scottish Grandpa who always tied his tie for church in the full length mirror. I’d hurry in front of him and stare at our reflection, ready to move. He’d then belt out in his beautiful base, …Once there was a snowman, tall, tall, tall. In the sun he melted, melted, melted. In the sun he melted small, small, small.” But my favorite was the song about the goat that ate three red shirts off the clothes line. It seemed we always sang that one bumping down the road in his old truck painted to match the horse trailer, his big bay, Stranger, tucked inside. Now why didn’t I ask how he got his name? It isn’t a typical one for a horses or anything else really. When Grandpa would kneel at night to pray, his hands clasped in Grandma’s, the rumble of his deep voice calmed my childish heart and sleep came quickly.
As I struggled with the words to express why these stories are so important. I found this:
“Learning about their family history can help children develop a better sense of who they are and why they look and act the way they do. It also enhances their feeling of stability and security as they see they are part of something bigger than themselves.”
She said it better than I could have. So tell your kids and grandkids about the past, even if it’s just your own.
Just cuz you need to know, or I think you do.
- A female racoon is a sow and a male a boar. The offspring are kits.
- A group of raccoons are called a nursery or gaze. (I never knew that one.) The mother will teach the kids to hunt and survive. (Just not in my yard please.)
- Litter size is from 2 – 5 babies.
- The young are weaned at about 12 weeks and leave Mom in the fall or early winter. Other times they stay until the next spring. I’m sure the company keeps them warmer.
- Raccoons are nocturnal. (That includes evening and early morning.)