Soapweed's Ranch Ramblings
The writings of a Nebraska Sandhills cattle rancher!

Keeping Things in Perspective
Dec 27, 2003

The people in the Donner party were headed to Oregon in 1846. They became stranded in the Sierras by deep snow, and got very hungry before the ordeal was over. Only about half of them survived, and they did so by eating human flesh from people who had died. I'll bet a dead downer cow, whether it had "mad cow disease" or not, would have looked mighty welcome to those hungry folks. The meat would sure have been more fulfilling than boiled shoe leather, which was prime soup material at the time.

My dad worked on a ranch back in the 'forties. It wasn't a real big ranch, but was located where four counties came together. Every day my dad would make his feeding rounds with a four-horse team, and by noon would have traveled in four counties and two states--Shannon and Bennett counties in South Dakota, and Sheridan and Cherry counties in Nebraska. One cold winter day a team of horses pulling a wagon came down the road. The driver pulled into the place and asked Dad if any livestock had recently died on the ranch. Dad told them no, but after the wagon had pulled on down the road he happened to remember a yearling steer that had perished about three weeks earlier. He got his horse out of the barn, and loped off after the vanishing wagon. When he caught up, he told them about remembering the dead yearling. As the weather had been pretty cold lately maybe they would be interested. The folks followed Dad to the gully where the dead critter had been dragged, and the driver got off the wagon to survey his prospects. He felt of the corpse and commented, "Hair no slip, must be good." The others got off the wagon and set to work with their butcher knives.

It has been over twenty years since I read the book ORDEAL BY HUNGER, and I don't remember all the details. I do know that it put things into perspective. After reading this, if a "bad day" came along when things didn't go quite right, all I'd have to do is think about the Donner party's troubles and my own temporary problems seemed pretty insignificant.






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