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Past, present and future: Weather is a topic of conversation

by MARYLYN CORK Contributing Writer
| July 28, 2021 1:00 AM

The weather has been getting more than its share of attention in the age of global warming; it’s very often a topic of conversation. There’s hardly anything, though, that’s more fun than reading about what some of the old-timers had to say about it in the pages of the Priest River Times.

These comments are from Ernest “Dad” Brown, a farmer in the community of Bodie Canyon on the western outskirts of Priest River. Dad was a character who had a unique relationship with the weather, and he covered the topic thoroughly in the pages of the newspaper.

Here follows this sample from the year 1937, when the weather was maybe not quite so alarming as it can be today, but was just as provoking to those who had to deal with it. All quotes are straight from the pen of Dad Brown, who used the editorial “we” in writing for the paper.

April 15, 1937

“We are tired of hearing what has become of Bodie Canyon, and in answer we will say it is still right here where it was last fall, although it was pretty well plugged with snow this winter and so d---- cold we all would have to sit on a red-hot stove before we dared take a drink of water, as it would freeze into an icicle going down and gag us.

“But all is fine now. Snow most all gone in the lowlands and green grass showing up fine. Some have turned their stock out to hustle what they can, as everyone is almost out of hay and buy all the way from $7 to $22 per ton, and mill feed of any kind from $1.70 per 70 pounds to $2.80 per 100 (pounds) for sure-milk feed.”

“We sure have enjoyed these two weeks of rain and the crops have too, but enough is enough of anything and it don’t need to get smart about it and try to drown us, crops, cutworms, potato bugs, and all.”

“We would like to go haying sometime this summer. The second crop of alfalfa has overtaken the first crop and we don’t know how we will separate them so we can have the first crop for the cows and the second crop for the cow-lets or bull-lets.”

“Ed Kruger and family have moved into the Paulson house and he is working at the pole yard between rains. It has been so wet the trucks couldn’t run so that makes the yard work slack.”

July 15, 1937

“Well, one more week has rolled around and it brought with it another rainy spell to help dampen the hay that is down so the leaves won’t fall off. Sunday and Monday it was so darned hot that the sweat would drop off and run down the fork handle and scald our hands and we would have to hurry up and throw the shocks on (the wagon) or that scalding sweat running down the fork handle into the shock of hay would almost have the shock rotted before we could get it to the wagon. Then we would have to drive on the run to the barn so the breeze would dry out the load before putting it into the barn.

“Ah, we had an awful time, but Monday evening the thunderheads began to rise and today it has sure rained at times and looks as though we will get more tonight.”

“Elmer Rogers is helping Hagman hay, but was home this evening—got rained out.”

“Chas. Maitland hasn’t showed up this week. He probably is in their spring wiping sweat, but he can come out now, the air is cooled off good.”

“Howard Peterson is no smarter than the rest of us for he is haying in the rain. We will all have nice clean hay anyway.”

July 22, 1937

“Haying, haying, haying. All you can see or hear is haying. We understand they are talking about oiling the West Branch road to lessen the dust cloud, accidents and collisions. Unless they add a 20- and 30-mile limit, I know a fellow who is going to buy about two good wreckers and three or four ambulance cars and start up a business, for that many rigs will sure be busy. If any place needs a traffic officer, it is this road and the highway through Priest River.”

August 26, 1937

“But didn’t we get a dandy rain Sunday night. It sure soaked the ground for once. It rained so hard it washed all the juice out of the wires and our city and residences were in the dark from 8:30 till 10 o’clock.

“Chas. Maitland hasn’t shown up for a week. The last time we saw him he said it was so dusty he couldn’t see where he was mowing, so he had to lay off. He said the last day it mowed it got so dusty he couldn’t keep track of the edge of the cutting and got clear of the field and mowed down two acres of his best timber he had before he noticed where he was.”

Oct 6, 1937

“Well, most everyone is digging their spuds or getting ready to. There seems to be a good crop this year of fine quality. Some spuds are so large was have to slit the sack full length to get them in it. Of course, we have a few we can get in the sack as usual. And the carrots—most of us are digging them with a stump puller and letting them down on the ground with a block and tackle so they won’t split open when the hit the ground.”

Nov. 11, 1937

“Well, it rained Friday and Friday night, and for a change it rained Saturday and Sunday night, then Sunday it rained, and then Monday it rained. Then, when we got up Tuesday morning, darned if it wasn’t raining! If it is the same kind of a day tomorrow as it was today, it rained tomorrow, too.

“It looks sort of bad around Priest River right at present; the roads are so soft it has put a stop to trucking. The shingle mill’s out of logs and no pole hauling and several camps shut down, which puts a lot of men out of work.

Wouldn’t some of that rain be welcome now?

Then, in December, Dad struck a change of pace and never did tell us what the weather was like. (I know from reading the old papers, it was both frigid, with snow, at one point and then, quickly following, came a warming trend). Dad turned his attention instead to approaching Christmas, but still with a colorful comment, which proves his sense of humor never failed him.

Dec. 23

“Who said there is no Santa Claus? We almost know better. We heard a noise outside the house like a ghost walking and started to investigate, but were too slow. Santa had arrived, got out of his car and started into the house with an armful of packages. He stubbed his toe on five or six of our good watch dogs and fell headlong, buttered side down, inside the house and spilled all his packages. And Mama, to keep Dad and the kids from seeing what was in the packages, dashed out in that room ahead of everybody. Dad made a grab at her, stubbed his toe under the rug and fell headlong right against the stove. Knocked the stove out for 20 minutes. When we came to, Santa Claus, Mama and packages had all disappeared. There we lay, wondering what all had happened, and we are still wondering. Only Santa or Mama can tell, and it probably won’t leak out till Christmas night.”