I met George Alvin Dowdy at a horse sale in 1947. I was 14 and Dowdy was 18. The friendship lasted 50 years until he died in 1998. His uncle, Charley Dowdy, had married Bessie Wellman. They all lived at the Wellman ranch about 13 miles south of town.
Charley Dowdy and Bessie Wellman went south for the winter and left George Dowdy to take care of the animals and the ranch.
The first night that I spent at the ranch, we got a dry snow with a high wind. I was sleeping next to the window. When I woke up the next morning, I peeked over the edge of the bed. There was four or five feet of snow there. Houses those days were not insulated and some were not much better than being outside.
One very cold Saturday morning, I was helping Dowdy feed the livestock with a team of horses and a bobsled. There were pheasants and sharp-tailed grouse on the feed ground. He decided to have one of the grouse for dinner. He took the trusty .22 rifle and shot the head off of a very tough grouse. He wanted to get another one, but it was so cold that the grease in the gun froze it up. That freeze up turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Dowdy tried to fry the grouse first and even the gravy was tough. Next he put it in a pan with water and put the grouse in the oven. Still tough, so he tried boiling it on top of the stove. We still could not eat it so we gave it to the dog. The dog gave us a dirty look. That bird was probably hatched out of the shell about the same time that Christopher Columbus found America.
Before Wellman left, she canned beef, peaches and pears. The canned beef was very good with potatoes and gravy made out of the juice. Dowdy did 100 percent of the cooking. I could not boil water without burning it. For an evening snack, we would open up a quart of the peaches. We would pour about half of the peaches in a bowl. Then, we would fill the quart jar and the bowl with thick, sweet cream. It was so good. We had not heard about cholesterol then.
One evening, after attending an event in town, we were returning home in the 1936 Ford gray sedan. We usually shot a few jackrabbits on the way because they were worth about 25 cents apiece. The truck from the fox farm in Nebraska came every 10 days or so to buy the rabbits. After shooting the jackrabbits, we would throw them on the metal floor in front of the back seat.
The next morning with the milk bucket under my arm, I was heading to the barn to milk the cow. When I passed the car, I did a double take. Sitting up in the back seat of the car was one of the rabbits that we had shot the night before. Apparently we had only grazed the rabbit’s skull and knocked him out. He did not live much longer. When I told Dowdy, he dispatched the rabbit immediately. We did not want to lose the 25 cents the rabbit was worth.
When it got cold, we lived in the kitchen and one bedroom. We closed off the rest of the house.
Of course every bit of water that was used needed to be handed pumped from the well near the house. There was a path to the outhouse.
The cook stove was banked with coal before going to bed. Despite this precaution, there would still be a skim of ice on top of the water bucket the next morning. Everyone that came to visit drank out of the same dipper from the bucket of water.
Guest columnist Bob Huff grew up in Upton. He is a driver for the mini-bus managed by the Senior Center. Center Stage is written by friends of the Senior Center for the Sheridan Community. It is a collection of insights and stories related to living well at every age.