Christmas morning on the ranch
As an infant I was brought home from the hospital in Visalia where I was born, to the same hilltop on which I live today. My father was a stockman, in the business of raising beef cattle from a grade herd (rather than a registered stock herd) in the foothills of southeastern Tulare County.
I learned to drive, sitting on my knees steering the truck so my father could feed hay from the back. When I got old enough to reach the pedals, I was given the privilege of actually driving from gate to gate. It always felt funny to see Dad get out and open the gate for me to drive through, as it had been the opposite as long as I could remember.
Just because it was Christmas didn’t mean the old cows took a day off either. Early morning on December 25th was a work day many years. If the rains had not come early enough to bring on the green grass, the cattle needed additional nutrition from alfalfa hay to maintain their life of birthing and raising calves. And with a big turkey in the oven, we had to hurry to get around.
There were cows and their calves living in fields all the way from the top of the ridge south of Springville on the north, to the Indian Reservation road on the south. Every field that contained cattle needed hay. And, they needed that hay every single day, including Christmas.
There were usually three hay-feeding crews: Dad and me on the north end of the ranch; my brother, Dale on the south end; and Cliff Fitton and often one of his boys, or both, feeding in the Frazier Valley and Lewis Creek country.
Each of the feeding crews took two or three big loads of hay to the cattle every day, requiring at least four hours of time. So if we started on Christmas Morning at 7 a.m., we would be back home by 11 a.m., in plenty of time for a noon or 1 p.m. Christmas dinner, followed always by a big piece of mincemeat or pumpkin pie, or both, topped with a little vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream.
Many Christmas mornings, my dad would say, as we pulled away from the barn with the first load, “Well, let’s go give our old cows their Christmas dinner.” And, that we did.
Another era has passed, and the older we get the more often they happen. A fine gentleman, a truly unique man, has gone on to his Great Reward. I was saddened to learn of the death of Clinton Osborn. I will miss reading his weekly column filled with wisdom and knowledge, while often reflecting the love for his family. Clinton’s tales nearly always provided a glimpse into a pioneer lifestyle rapidly disappearing from existence. I always felt it was a privilege to be on the same page with him on this Heritage page.
Clinton was one of the “big boys” when I started school at Springville School. The Osborn Boys came from up in the mountains, but were nice guys. My mother was a big fan of Juanita Osborn, the boys’ mother, who was a highly skilled artist especially in the field of tea cups and saucers and small brooch pins. One of her most popular styles was a delicate apple blossom, complete with petals and wavering stamen. At least they seemed they could wave in the first spring breeze they were so lifelike. Rest in peace, Clinton. You will be missed.
Brent Gill lives in Springville. His “Daunt to Dillonwood” column appears regularly in The Porterville Recorder. If you enjoyed this column, follow my blog at: http://foothillwriter.blogspot.com.