Drinking Stories by Steve Moreland, December 3, 2014
As a youngster working in the hayfield, it seems a great thirst was always an excuse to stop by the pickup to get a drink. People weren’t as finicky back then, and the whole crew shared the same jug. It was generally an old one-gallon glass Clorox bottle, wrapped in a gunny sack, more commonly known as burlap. The one gallon of water usually didn’t last all of the crew of five for the whole afternoon, so someone would need to make a run to a nearby windmill to refill the jug. After being filled, the jug was dipped into the tank to soak the burlap, which kept the water inside reasonably cool through the process of evaporation.
There were and still are numerous windmills on our ranch. Each one of these pumps magnificently pure tasty Sandhills water. It is somewhat of an art to know how to cup your hand under the end of the two-inch pipe which flows water from the well to the tank. Of course, the wind has to be turning the wheel to pump the water before it is possible to drink from the lead (pronounced “leed”) pipe. The secret is to bob your head up and down as the water pumps, so as to get the refreshing drink without getting water into your nose at the same time.
If the wind isn’t blowing, the pure water is not pumping out the end of the pipe. A person needs to be quite a lot thirstier to want to drink out of the standing water in the large tank. Ace Reid was a great ranch cartoonist. A classic of his Cowpoke Cartoons depicted a couple thirsty cowboys hunkered down over a pond. One cowboy was slurping up water. The other was hanging back, and he commented, “It’s not the germs I’m worried about, but what can be seen with the naked eye.” There were snakes and frogs in sight, along with a skull from a departed creature. You knew there were cow slobbers and worse in that pond also. It just matters how thirsty a person might be. I’ve been thirsty enough at times to not be too fussy.
One time back in the early 1970’s, I was checking windmills on our summer pastures south of Merriman. I also was looking at the cattle, putting out salt and mineral, and applying “fly dope” on back rubbers. The summer range was 7,852 acres of land to check, which included 18 windmills and two electric pump jacks with floats. There was not a whiff of a breeze that day, and I had erred in not bringing a water jug. Not a single windmill was pumping, and I was getting thirstier by the minute. I could hardly wait to arrive at one of the electrically powered wells so it could be turned on for a drink. After climbing into the cribbing, I put my hand over the end of the lead pipe and turned on the water. Just as the first water flowed out of the pipe, a snake’s head fell into my hand. A big garter snake had been laying full length inside the pipe cooling off, and was aroused from his slumber to slither out when the water came on. All of a sudden I wasn’t nearly so thirsty.
After driving the pickup to the next windmill, my thirst returned, along with a bit of inspiration. The paper salt sacks were all lined with plastic. I ripped out a piece of the plastic, and tied it over the end of the lead pipe with a piece of baling wire. Then I climbed to the top of the tower and turned the wheel by hand until water started pumping. I continued with the turning until water had filled the lead pipe and started coming out the top of the splash pipe. After coming down from the tower, I cupped my hand under the pipe, took off the sack, and drank fast. The plan worked very well, and I got back into the pickup feeling quite refreshed.
In the fall of 1972, I worked for L.D. Frome, Outfitter, on his elk hunting camps in the Teton Wilderness in northwestern Wyoming. My job as a mule packer was hauling groceries and horse feed into the camps and elk meat back out. Our base camp was at the mouth of Box Creek on Turpin Meadow, and that is where vehicles were parked. Our first hunting camp was 28 miles to the north, near Hawk’s Rest, with the second camp being another 25 miles up the Thorofare River to Pass Creek, near the Ishawa Cone. This was closer to Cody, but we packed in from the Jackson side. This area is furthest from any roads in the whole lower 48 states, and I averaged riding horseback about thirty miles per day from late August until November 1st.
On one of the 28 mile trips between base camp and Hawk’s Rest, I was lazily riding my horse and leading six head of pack horses and mules. We were approaching a creek, and I remember thinking of not being thirsty enough to stop. Getting within a hundred feet of the creek, a sudden and overpowering thirst came upon me. Even though not originally planning to stop, I reined my horse to a halt, and dismounted to get a collapsible cup out of a saddlebag. Leaning to the upstream side of the creek, I was filling the cup when a crash occurred on the trail ahead. The slight breeze had just toppled a dead tree which fell completely across the trail. Had I still been riding ahead, it probably would have fallen directly upon me. Possibly my saddle horse and I could have avoided being hit, but it most assuredly would have fallen somewhere along the tied-together string of six horses and mules, and there would have been a tremendous wreck. A peaceful grateful feeling came upon me then and there, realizing that my guardian angel was on duty. The instant overpowering thirst had just prevented a disaster.
Back about the time I was in second grade, my little sister Sandra was spending the afternoon at our grandmother’s house. Grandma decided that Sandra was mature enough to come visit me at school. She brought my sister over right after dinner, and Sandra sat quietly beside my desk without causing any undue commotion. At recess time a classmate, Timmy Snyder, offered me a proposition. He would buy me a bottle of pop, which cost a dime, if I would let Sandra sit by him for the remainder of the day. That seemed like a good deal to me, so I took him up on his offer. The day ended with a feeling of satisfaction for having made a good trade and getting my thirst quenched, all in a one shot deal. The next day two other second graders brought their younger siblings as guests, and the following day we all took home notes that younger brothers and sisters would not be allowed to visit school unless accompanied by their mothers. I guess it goes back to one bad hunter spoiling things for all others.
Water is a good thirst quencher, V8 vegetable juice maybe not so much. One hot summer day while in the hayfield, a hasty trip back home to the shop was necessary. The first stop was at the house, where a quick look into the refrigerator found a six-pack of small cans of V8 juice. Being very thirsty, I chugged four of these cans before going outside to continue on to the shop. I barely got past the yard gate before a sudden feeling of illness caused me to lose all of the V8. After getting the repair part, I had to once again take on some liquid, but water was the preferred form of rehydration for this next go around.
In late May of 1993, Carol and I took our three youngsters on a trip to Alabama, where we attended the wedding of Carol’s cousin, and then we traveled on to DisneyWorld in Florida. We flew by jet from Omaha to Atlanta, and then another plane ride took us to Montgomery, Alabama. After flying from Montgomery back to Atlanta, we flew to Orlando. After our three fun days at DisneyWorld, we flew from Orlando back to Atlanta, and then from Atlanta back again to Omaha. Between Atlanta and Omaha, we had soared high in the sky to proper altitude, and the stewardess came down the aisle with drinks and cookies. Our oldest son, Will, was eleven years old at the time. He had never had Ginger Ale, so that was his drink of choice. I decided to have a 12-ounce can of tomato juice. We had no more than popped the top on our drink cans when the plane flew into erratic and very rough weather. The ends of the wings were flopping wildly, and our airplane ride was rivaling any of the thrills we had experienced on the rides in DisneyWorld. The seat-belt sign came on, and the stewardess hurriedly came back down the aisle picking up drink cans. I chugged my tomato juice. Will could only drink about half of his can of Ginger Ale, so I took it upon myself to drink the other half. This was almost a very bad choice. I was quite proud to keep my dignity intact throughout the whole ordeal until the flight once again became smooth.
For many years, our family dentist was Dr. Lawrence Gunner, who practiced in Martin, South Dakota. A few years before retiring, he moved to Winner, South Dakota. He was a very accomplished dentist, and Winner was only a couple hours away, so we chose to continue doing business with him. One hot humid June day, our family had traveled to Winner for our annual appointments. I was dreadfully thirsty, and was thinking how good it would taste to swallow a chocolate drink called Yoo-Hoo. I really liked the taste of Yoo-Hoo, but hadn’t seen any available to buy for several years. We decided to put fuel in the pickup before starting our journey home, and stopped at a gas station called Casey’s General Store. For a moment, I thought hallucinations had set in upon discovering big glass bottles of Yoo-Hoo in the cooler. I bought two bottles, and considered myself the luckiest guy in the world as I savored each sip of that wonderful thirst-quenching potion.
Our daughter, Tiffany, attended college at Morning Star University in Fort Mill, South Carolina. When she graduated in June of 2011, Carol and I drove down to attend the graduation ceremony. All throughout the south, there are Cracker Barrel restaurants. We stopped at one of these to eat dinner, and I decided to try their raspberry iced tea. Being quite thirsty, I drank the contents of four large glasses in rapid succession. I had never had raspberry tea before. It was so good at the time that we managed to stop at several other Cracker Barrels during the remainder of our trip. There are no Cracker Barrels in our area, and I have never had any raspberry tea that tasted quite that good since. Maybe I was just extra thirsty.
My dad had sold some Hereford club calves to his cousin, Gene Moreland, for Gene’s kids to show in 4-H at the Chase County fair in Imperial, Nebraska. Dad and Mom, my sisters, and I all traveled to Imperial to attend the fair that year, sometime in the mid 1960’s. We were sitting at the supper table with Gene, his wife Lee, and their kids who were around my age. The phone rang, and Lee answered it. She called her daughter Jody to the phone. A neighbor girl wondered if Jody would like to go into town to attend the movie. Jody nicely asked me if I would like to go, too. It sounded like fun, so I answered in the affirmative. The neighbor girl’s brother was to be the driver, and soon he and his sister arrived to pick up Jody and me. We went to the movie, and now nearly fifty years later I can’t remember the title of the movie. The driver let out his sister, Jody, and I to go to the show, and he proceeded to drive off to hobnob with some of his friends. The movie got over, and we went outside to wait for our ride. We possibly waited for at least an hour before big brother showed up in his car to take us back home. His sister got in the front seat, and Jody and I got in the back, with me sitting directly behind the driver. This was in the days before air-conditioning was very common in automobiles, and this car didn’t have it. The summer evening was quite warm, so all the windows were down as we traveled. Pretty soon our illustrious driver, who had spent the evening drinking beer with his friends, stuck his head out the window and barfed. I wasn’t thinking quick enough; didn’t move fast enough, and some of the recycled beer came right in the back window onto me. What a thrill. The next time it happened, I had got over into the middle of the seat and escaped the bombardment. It was probably a good lesson in life, and is probably the number one reason I have been a teetotaler for all of my 63 years.
Maybe I haven’t been a complete teetotaler, come to think of it. When I was about four years old, I had come with Mom and my sister, Sandra, in the car to Snyder’s branding. Dad and whoever our hired man was at the time had ridden over horseback. The branding was completed, and the crew had assembled on Snyders’ lawn for liquid refreshments, and to wash up for dinner. Bottles of pop and cans of beer were in a big tin tub of water and ice. All the little kids were lining up for pop, and Ronald Snyder asked, “What kind of pop do you want, Steve?” I answered back, “I want beer.” He said, “What kind of beer?” Having watched on television the fun-loving bears who ice skated in the Land of Sky Blue Waters, my immediate answer was, “Hamm’s.” Snyd grabbed a can of Hamm’s beer out of the tub, and opened it with the necessary opener of that day and age. I took one sip, made a face, and decided to have orange pop after all. That was the one and only drink of alcohol I’ve ever taken. It’s no wonder I’m not a very cool sort of guy.
During the summer of 1968, several Cherry County 4-H kids went by bus to Albert Lea, Minnesota for an exchange trip. There we split up to go with host families to spend the week. I stayed with Glen Mathiason and his parents, at their farm near Austin, Minnesota. The whole week was very rainy and not much farm work got accomplished. About the only real work I got in on was to help Glen clean out the chicken house one morning. Nearly every day, Glen and I would join up with several of his friends to pass away the time. A lot of beer was consumed by everyone in the group except my square self. Many miles were covered in one automobile or another. Speed and alcohol were always factors in every trip. To be quite truthful, I was very happy to survive the week alive and all in one piece. This week was probably also a factor in me deciding that others can have my share of any available beer. My dad gave me good advice early on. He declared that a person would never become an alcoholic if you never took the first drink. I am quite sure he was spot on with his assessment.
Last edited by Soapweed
on Tue May 09, 2017 1:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.