Blizzards Sculpt The History of the Ranch

Blizzards Sculpt The History of the Ranch


Hi, I’m Mike, the weather shapes our history,
no matter where you live, hurricanes, tornadoes floods or even wildfires. For us in northeast Wyoming the one weather
event that shapes our history, unless Yellowstone blows its top, and if then I’m history,
has been blizzards. Over the past hundred years or so, we have
seen blizzards change the way we live, the way we ranch and the way we think, on our
Wyoming life. Welcome back to our Wyoming life, and thanks
for joining us in another look into the past. Over the past few months we have been setting
aside one video a month to do just that, we’ve looked at our history here, and we have looked
at the history of those who came long before us, as well as the history of the area but
now we take a bit of a turn as we not only look at the history but what caused it to
change and mostly in ways that many didn’t anticipate. Some called it the death of the wild west,
others called it the great die-up, and historians still debate what one had to do with the other,
but both certainly had a role in completing an era in the old west. In the late 1800’s, the land that is now
Wyoming was part of a huge expanse of miles and miles of open terrain. Through much of the late 1870’s the lack
of trees on the great prairies, and open fields of grassland, along with cooler temperatures
and mild winters made raising cattle here easy, grass and feed was plentiful but what
wasn’t was a knowledge of the area and its weather history. Back then, cattle ranchers didn’t store
hay for their cattle, the fenceless open range meant that grazing land was easy to come by
and cattle ranchers of the time had huge herds and would often move them across the plains
chasing the grass. Into the 1880 they made it look easy, railroads
moved into the area, towns sprung up and thousands of settlers moved here to brave isolation
in the hopes of finding adventure and a decent living. In the summer of 1886, the sun scorched the
land and prairies, and lack of rain that summer was unlike anything settlers had seen up until
that point. Drought burned through the area and many ranchers
by fall were in search of land to graze their cattle on. When snow started to fall in November, the
cattle, who were already starving and ill, found themselves beginning on what may be
come a cold and hard winter. Starvation began to claim many cattle but
the hard winter turned to tragedy, when on January 9, 1887, a blizzard hit, bringing
with it 16 inches of snow, howling winds and temperatures below – 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Cattleman and farmers had no way to feed their
cattle, and those that weren’t killed by the cold, soon died from continued starvation. Ranchers are recorded as saying they had no
idea how their herds were, let alone where they were. When spring came, and the snow melted away,
millions of cattle were counted as dead, official count called 90% of the areas cattle that
were on open range as lost. That spring, people said they could see dead
cattle as far as the eye could see. The carcasses clogged up waterways and contaminated
drinking water. Bankruptcy was for many the only way out,
others packed up and moved back east, where, they said they knew what to expect from mother
nature. That winter was known as the great die up,
there was no round up that year, or at least nothing like what the cowboys of the area
were used to. Those that stayed, adapted to what they learned
were unpredictable weather patterns in the area and made changes to make sure they wouldn’t
be caught unprepared again. Ranchers stopped keeping enormous herds of
cattle and even began farming operations to grow and harvest food for those they had. The open range was mostly abandoned, the days
of livestock roaming far and wide were over as ranchers began stringing barbed wire and
creating smaller grazing territories. The winter of 1886-1887 began the end of the
wild frontier, but not the end of learning from weather. In 1890 Wyoming became a state, and another
blizzard hit in 1912, then again in 1922 and 27. Forced by weather, ranchers learned to adapt
to the cold temperatures, raised more forage during the summers and put up hay for cattle
to eat over the winter. Herds became even smaller as more and more
land was needed to produce the winter hay, until ranchers also took on the roll of farmer
and began seeding grassland with more and heartier varieties. Then fenced off hay fields to keep cows out
of them, allowing harvest of some of the best grasses on the ranch for winter forage. A wet and heavy snow hit in May of 1942, but
it did little to prepare ranchers for what was coming for them in 49. The blizzard of 49 turned out to me one of
the biggest blizzards ever recorded here, although up in the northeast corner of the
state, we only saw a fraction of the weather the southern part of the state received. Still, even on the outskirts, 15-foot drifts
were created, completely isolating ranches, cattle, and people. The blizzard began on January 2nd and was
followed by two months of bitter cold and snow. Within hours of the first signs of snow, roads
were impassable, many ranchers setting out on the usual routine to feed and water their
cattle had no idea what was coming. In driving snow, cattle became disoriented,
walking with the storm to keep it at their backs. Many perished from suffocation, as dense snow
and ice built up around their mouths and noses. They walked without the ability to see in
front of them, off the sides of ravines, and into fences where cattle were crushed by the
weight of the herd behind them. Within a few days the sun was shining again
but storms continued to bring more and more snow. Crews dealing with drifting along roads where
unable to keep up. Locally, a pilot began flying over ranches
in the area, dropping handbills, with notes telling ranchers that if they needed help
to create a black x in their yard and the next day they would return with supplies,
and if you needed a lift to town with the pilot, they would take you town. Pilots looked for lost herds of cattle and
sheep and directed teams to be able to get them the feed they so desperately needed. The US Airforce began operation Hay lift on
January 28th, flying over 500 tons of hay from Kansas into Wyoming, sometimes dropping
off bales along the way to stranded cattle. Over 20,000 cattle were counted as dead after
the storm along with over 100,000 sheep. In addition, the spring breeding was affected
because of sterility of bulls caused by such cold temperatures and deep snow. Blizzards continued over the next 70 years,
almost like clockwork, 1967, 1984, 1997. Since 1997 we haven’t seen anything near
a major blizzard, but it seems we may be due. Preparing for the worse is a lesson that ranchers
in this area learned well in 1886 and 1887 and it’s a lesson that none are soon to
forget. We keep our herd close, we utilize fences
and pastures, along with hay ground to make sure that we have the feed on hand to keep
them all well fed all winter long. As we get ready to head into calving here
on the ranch, the threat of blizzard hangs over us every day. In those situations, we end up with calves
in the house, in the bathtub and wrapped up on the floor, we keep them in the barn and
our main goal becomes to protect every mom and her calf from the weather. Maybe the wild west isn’t gone, but it has
adapted. Oscar Wilde said, to expect the unexpected
shows a thoroughly modern intellect, but I think I prefer a quote from Thomas Edison,
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” If you can look back at the things that have
slowed you down, weather, health issues, co-workers, whatever it may be, but didn’t stop you,
they just caused you to adapt and overcome, those are opportunities to be a better rancher,
farmer, an insurance salesman, or just person. Thanks for coming along today, the weather
caused change here the created better ranchers, better stewards of the land, and we are still
evolving, all on our own, no blizzard needed to get your point across. Please subscribe, much more on the way from
the ranch as we invite you to explore the ranch life and escape the ordinary. Until next time have a great week, and thanks
for joining us in our Wyoming life.

100 Replies to “Blizzards Sculpt The History of the Ranch”

  1. My parents told us kids many stories about Nov 18 1948 and on into 1949 in north east NE where I was born. I was kept in a basket behind the cook stove. She said I had pneumonia twice in early 49. Dad lost his farm due to the blizzards of 48/49. I heard it was said that it took the army to dig us out and when it warmed up the navy took over. It looks like the blizzards follow the sun spot cycles kinda sorta. We are in sun spot minimum cycles now. Who knows? The Shadow knows 🙂 and of course God.

  2. Great video as always! I love the new intro! Where'd you get all of the old footage and pictures? I still got in some history class even on the weekend. One of my new favorite videos of yours! Have a great rest of the day – Everett aka Farm Boy #1

  3. Mike, you do come up with some very interesting information from time to time. I really do appreciate your efforts and the dedication it takes to research the history and collect the details that you do such a good job of presenting. Thank you for sharing with us, we all enjoy these videos and will be watching for more.

  4. Thanks for the history lesson Mike. In Saskatchewan the 1930s taught us grain farmers 0 till was the way to go conserving water and topsoil.

  5. Do remember as a kid of stories of how grandma, grandpa or someone dying of exposure from trying to go feed the animals in the barn and not being able to make it back to the house. Or tying a long rope to the house, and using it as guide back to the house. Can't see in the white out. Even then, some couldn't make it back to the house because of the heavy drift. Ranch and farming life isn't for the faint of heart. It makes you a better person or it will crush you! Thanks for the great video!

  6. Excellent…alarmists say we have extreme weather today..they should view this vid…with modern machinery and scientific ranching techniques and computer, radar, satellite weather forecasts today I think we have much better odds against mother nature today…but of coarse we should not let our guard down…thanks once again Mike

  7. Wow you do an episode on blizzards, from Wyoming and we just get hit with yesterday, 11 inches of snow here in southwest Kansas, blizzard conditions haven't seen that out here in a long time. Thanks for the history lesson and try to stay warm y'all

  8. Thanks Mike for the history lesson and the reminder that tough times could be just around the corner….weather is unpredictable at best and being prepared should never be overlooked. I was born in 1949 in Utah and have lived here all of my life, but was never reminded of the harsh winter conditions of that winter. I look forward to your videos and admire your work ethic in making the ranch a success. Keep up the good work.

  9. read or listen to The Long Winter, part of the Little House series. listen to nature, wildlife, and others that lived in those areas for generations.

  10. Yep, Yellowstone is nothing but a big pressure cooker covered with a lid with thousands of holes in it for over a 200 mile radius in all directions. If you think there's going to be a big blow out, don't live in Wyoming….. how's that? Weather…. if you get cold you can always put a coat on. Those hot places you can't escape……. you just can't take your skin off.

  11. I think I can relate. For nearly years I kept horses on a piece of property a mile from my house in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The property had no well, and you had to walk back from the road about 200' to get to the hay barn and corrals. It didn't help that the county plows would build a berm in front of my gate that would freeze over night and that had to be chipped through before I could even begin to clear snow on the property. I would have to use a sled to haul water in 7 gallon jugs that I had brought from home to the horses twice per day, sometimes after a three or four foot snowfall. The first year I about killed myself hand shoveling trenches to get back the the horses since I had neither a tractor nor snow blowers. Often I would have to shovel the snow from the shelters to keep them from collapsing. I finally invested in a pair of snow shoes so I could walk over the drifts, and a blower so I could keep the tracks clear. I had mini horses at one point and the snow would be over their backs in height so trenches had to be dug for them as well. We adapted since we had no other choice and the lessons I learned while dealing with the Sierra winters have stuck with me even after I moved to a much less taxing climate. My pipes are over insulated, I have a wood stove so that I can heat the house and cook on it if necessary, and I keep bottles of water out to freeze so that I can keep the food in the 'fridge cold if/when the power goes out. We don't get anywhere near the snow where I am now, but I still have my shovel just in case, and it has come in handy on a couple of occasions. I always have two years worth of hay in storage in case I can't find any during the winter months. The Sierras taught me well. You adapt or you don't make it.

  12. Really good video you should do one on the history of cattle and sheep vaccine and the disasters that happened to herds in the west before it was common practice to vaccinate your animals. My great grandpa used to tell stories of the cattle and sheep in are area getting diseases so bad that the army came in and shot them all and piled them up and burned them to keep the diseases from spreading back in the early 1900s.

  13. Hi good evening Mike thanks for the much needed history update,another informative video with a wealth of information.Great job Mike,hi there Makenzie how's Bambie doing hope she well and so are you. Till the neXt video keep aim coming Mike and Erin God bless beautiful family.

  14. Thanks Mike, this video really gives an understandable insight into the 'American Spirit' of our country. It's amazing what can be accomplished if folks will just keep pressing forward. Children raised, families established and communities prosper as the winds of adversity howl.

  15. Mike that was so interesting. Thanks for the history lesson. Let's hope we don't get another one of those blizzards for a long time. Love the pictures.

  16. That was great Mike thankyou..

    Its interesting the years you said that there was major blizzards in wyoming, we have major droughts in either the same year or year before here in parts of australia where I live..

  17. Well done! I like the quote from Thomas Edison "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looked like work".

  18. I think your wrong, there couldn't have been extreme weather back then because Trump wasn't president in the 1800s. Climate change has only started since Bush was elected.

  19. Hi Mike, I live in Central NY, 20 miles east of Syracuse. Syracuse is always listed in the top 3 of the snowiest cities in America & we are no strangers to severe blizzards, lol. It's very normal for us to get 2 feet of snow at a time, it's no big deal & we deal with it with no problem. I live in the country, in the middle of the "muck lands", it's very flat & the black soil is very rich for growing onions, potato's, corn, soybeans & wheat. But that flat land is awful in the winter & the wind roars across here creating white outs & huge drifts. Add to that all the lake effect snow we get from Lake Ontario & it can be pretty treachorous here. But hey, I'll take the snow & cold over tornado's, earthquakes & hurricanes anyday! LOL!

  20. I see 2 disliked the video. I think you tube should show a list of those who like and dislikes a video. I would truly like to ask how this brief history lesson was bad or if they were disliking just because .

  21. I remember those blizzards of the 70's and through my life so far here in central NE I am hoping spring comes in gental and don't bring to many severe storms but it wouldn't be central NE if spring didn't bring some good old storms have wonderful week Mike and hope it warms up soon for u guys out in WY

  22. If Justin Rhodes would watch this channel he could learn how to prevent his livestock from dying needlessly.
    And learn how to be a much better parent!

  23. What a wonderful vid.
    Thank heavens we dont have it as bad as they had it years ago. They have called for a blizzard here all day. 😂😋alls I can do is laugh,and think a couple inches of snow isnt a blizzard. Have a wonderful week coming up.

  24. At 3:00 that must have be the same storm talked about on the tv mini series" Centennial" show back in the late 1970's. I believe it was depicted on a ranch in Colorado. Hard to believe that they did not have any feed for them but there had been so many cattle….. Guess that's why the buffalo lasted so long….. Well until we got involved😞……

  25. This content is what helps define your channel title. Although you do a great job at showing us your typical days on the ranch, you have now started to show what a Whyoming Life is all about through the history. By the way, you have confirmed for me that I won't be starting my small homestead in Wyoming. LOL. I really hope that you continue this path once a month. It's great knowledge that many of us east coast city boys really like. 🙂

  26. Fascinating to see and hear about this history, I replayed it a second time to see things I may have missed, thanks so much for this excellent series

  27. Keep your cows close & your hay closer.

    I had heard about the hay lift but forgotten about it. It was nice hearing about it from a more local perspective.

  28. Didn't like history when I was in school, but I love it now. The history videos are great if we don't look at history we will do the same things again. God bless you'll.

  29. Great vid Mike Erin!!! I hold my breath for 90 days Dec through Feb on getting feed to the cows and keeping the water open cool thing to have in your war chest is a battery powered chain saw Makita ( 30 minutes of use per charge) is the brand cuts the ice out easy and takes little space in the tractor. we are not going to calve until April 12ish but they seem to start hatching around the 4th hang in there guys we are on the homefront towards spring.

  30. Great history video, Mike. So interesting the hardships the pioneers endured to settle the west. Spring of 1969 while in Gillette it snowed 19 inches in 36 hours. Canceled school due to snow drifts. April 1 , 1969. Last snow of winter, melted and everything was green . Keep up the good work.

  31. You really have done your research! OMG those winters had to of been miserable. One can only hope your not going to have a winter like that for a while.

  32. Excellent video, Mike! I'm watching this while we have, literally, a blizzard that's been pounding us since last night. Here in Northeast Iowa, we've been due. The last 3 winters have been fairly tame and this winter was also – up through to the last week in January when we saw our 1st standard temps of -34 and -65 wind chills! We've had nearly 2-1/2 feet of snow this month and today, the 55 mph winds really humbled a lot of people! Thankful Spring is just around the corner – but with more snow in our forecast – it's the hope of what's coming that keeps us strong! Stay warm and looking forward to more videos from your ranch!

  33. Thanks for sharing Mike! You deal with things most around my neck of the woods never do. Here 60 miles south of the Metroplex, I do t know of anyone else beside me who has tire chains and cables. And that is because we have friends in Colorado, I've never used them here, super cold and snow just do not stay here more than a few days. Now we do get weeks of 100°F+ degree weather in the summers where it doesn't cool off below 80° at night. Have a great week!

  34. These history episodes are better than the History Channel. You and Erin's past work experience shine thru with every vlog.

  35. I really am enjoying your History pieces Mike, Thanks from a avid History Buff. Interesting as it may be, Murphy doesn't seem to hang around much with people that are prepared, he likes hanging out in the backyards of people that aren't. After a few visits from Ol' Murph if you have a few marbles up in that head, you start to "adapt" as you would put it. Funny how wisdom seems to always be gained by first hand experience. My wish as a parent, is that I could instill ALL that wisdom in my child so he/she won't make the same mistakes, ahhhh but alas wisdom seems to fall on fallow ground most of the time. Why is that?????

  36. great vlog mike .. I don't know if you and erin have heard about the huge cattle losses here in qld Australia due to driving rain and the bloody freezing cold a few weeks ago  where 000s of head of beef stock just froze or drowned agaist fences in corners of paddock with n where 2 go  . its just been yrs of drought here aust wide and farms and stations have been destocking  and keeping there high quality breeds then this bloody happends .. you can watch on free 2 air  abc tv on free view  or on web  thanks

  37. Wow Mike you really had to do some research for this one. You had me thinking about how easy the winters here in Nova Scotia, Canada really are compared to just what you may have to deal with In Wyoming. Thanks for bringing me along as you do with every video and oh ya I really thought this was worth sharing with my friends and family on Facebook. Keep up the good work and I look forward to your next video on Tuesday !!!!

  38. I remember the 1997 blizzard I got caught in that one. I was driving semi through Southern Wyoming. It was crazy nasty. God bless

  39. In some respects, you might just as well be on the dark side of the moon, your life is that different from life in Newport, RI, particularly this Winter. For the first time in my life we will see March roll in and we haven't had an inch of snow all Winter. While we benefit from being close to warmer Atlantic currents, this is really amazing with little more than 4-6 weeks to go. Your history lesson highlights and reinforces the differences in this vast country. Great content…..thx!

  40. What a great history lesson‼️ Very interesting how things have changed over the years. We got 14" of snow here in Oregon where we usually don't get snow here‼️Thanks again for sharing the video.

  41. Thanks for the look back into the history of the region! Very interesting and much to be learned from the lessons of the past.
    How does that old saying go? "Those that fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it!"
    I think that the weather this year is proving to be a repeat of past seasons! Stay warm and safe!

  42. Well done . We in southeast MN experienced the rath of Mother Nature this last weekend. Many dairy and other livestock sheds collapsed under the wet heavy snow with 50+ mph winds we lost two sheds used to house our herd of two hundred dairy cows, loosing 40 so far. Others experiencing the same or worse. Many dumped milk because trucks were unable to pick them up. We are now digging out and trying to get back to normal. Many can use your prayers and well wishes as life goes on in our Minnesota life.

  43. I remember studying this storm ! Crazy how much cattle died !! Nightmare ! Or maybe it was the early 1949 the one i studied, Army national guard had to bring in equipment to remove snow ?

  44. Is this content taught in your curriculum? It’s unfortunate that this is not included in American History in the East. At least as far East as Cape Cod where I went to school as did my children. I just learned of this right now. Absolutely amazing! But! What is even more valuable is the lessons in how we have to adapt to our situations and surrounds then learn from it and evolve move forward with wisdom.

  45. WOW! WOW! WOW! This is an awesome and extremely interesting historical account of ranching history in upper Midwest 48 states. Facts few people know about. So important, very important to keep this kind of history alive for younger generations and peoples seeing their weather patterns changing where they live at this time in history. Extraordinary professional storytelling and videography documentary. Extremely great work, Mike. Phenomenal documentary skills. Thanks so very much. Love those dedicated strong, hardy, Herefords in our early ranching history.

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