Historical Details

Childhood on the Prairie, Part 2

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 11/29/1956

The following is a continuation of the article "Childhood on the Prairie" which was written by the late Nellie S. Griffith, Co-Publisher of The Lusk Herald. The first portion of the article appeared in last week's issue. More will be published in coming issues.

Having secured the job as foreman of the LZ cattle ranch, Harry and Molly Snyder moved to their new home with nothing but their high hopes and courage.

The LZ ranch was located in eastern Wyoming on a little stream called the Running Water, which in later years became known by its Indian name of "Niobrara", which means running water.

The ranch was owned by eastern capital as this was the heyday of the big cattle outfits. A foreman's job was one of great responsibility as he could either make or break the concern for which he was manager. He had to know all angles of the cattle business, and how to handle cowboys and be a good judge of horses.

A few years passed and two little girls were playing about the ranch, the older being myself, (Editor Note: the younger was Mrs. Ralph Olinger of Lusk. Later there was another daughter, Mrs. Otto Stratton now of California.)

My first recollections are of some incidents of early childhood - of the thrill I got when a cowboy riding by would reach down and grab me up on his saddle and go galloping off, at least it seemed to me it was galloping. I think this performance must have alarmed my mother, when she happened to see it, as I remember her standing in the doorway with her hand pressed against her cheek and a worried expression on her face.

The reason I remember trying to pet a strange dog, is the way mother screamed when she came to the door, after I had called her to come see what was "looking at me with its two eyes". And I still doubt if the young coyote would have hurt me. Anyway I was greatly disappointed when my now-found friend took off on a dead run for the near-by hills.

Sometimes on a summer evening after the chores were finished, we would all sit out in the yard listening to the good-night songs of the meadow lark and other birds. Often a mother skunk and her kittens would play in the near-by meadow, performing the same antics as pet house cats.

The horned toads that ran swiftly up the hillsides and the fat toads in the garden, we considered delightful playmates.

I shudder now when I remember how my sister and I played with the water snakes that inhabited the irrigation ditches traversing the large garden. It was our special delight to find a long hooked stick with which we would pull the wiggling, squirming snake up on the bank and then try to keep it from getting back in the water. We considered it quite a feat of skill and I still think it was.

We stood a little more in awe of the snakes on the prairie as we were often admonished by our parents to be careful and watch for rattle snakes, and we realized the terrible consequences of being bitten, by seeing the horribly swollen heads of horses and cattle that were suffering from the effects of a bite.

The LZ was a prairie ranch so the wildlife that I knew as a child, were creatures whose natural habitat was the rolling plains. The buffalo were gone by that time but the prairies were strewn with their horns, skulls and bones bleaching in the sun. Antelopes were fairly plentiful but were used so much for meaa that they soon would have become extinct had not the state government stepped in and prohibited their slaughter.

The little tan colored prairie dogs were plentiful, sitting up so straight and motionless on their hind feet that they resembled a stake driven in the ground and would hardly be noticed until suddenly with a sharp little bark, they would dive into their burrows and disappear underground. The prairie dogs were sociable creatures and lived in communities called "prairie dog towns". But the little animal and his towns of holes and small hills of dirt, which once dotted much of the landscape are almost gone. Much pasture land was spoiled by them so the biological survey department has systematically poisoned them.

Gophers, ground squirrels, badgers, jack and cottontail rabbits were everywhere as were sage hens and wild ducks. Deer were found along the streams skirting the timber covered hills.

Coyotes and wolves were plentiful and took a heavy toll in calves and other livestock which they killed and the eerie howl of the coyote at night was a most terrifying sound.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Olinger, Ralph (05/20/1885 - 02/06/1965) View Record