Life on the X-Bar Ranch...

I am an ordinary woman, with an amazing family, serving an awesome God.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Shack

It was a tiny house. If it could be called a house. It was, more accurately; a shack. Thin walls that didn't keep out the wind, cheap linoleum that was ugly and worn, no indoor plumbing - well, if I remember right, there was an old-fashioned hand-pump for water instead of a faucet in the kitchen. There was dirt everywhere, funky old drapes that the previous tenant had neglected to take down, and a few old chairs. There was electricity in the house, thankfully. But we had only the bare essentials.

My mom was an old pro at this, though, and enlisted the help of us kids to clean it up and get it livable. Actually, it was more like being Shanghaied. We had no choice in the matter, we just did what she said. ("Good character-building," I can almost hear you say it...) Anyways, my brothers took turns with the push-mower on the yard. It was so overgrown that the weeds were almost as tall as my brothers in some places. Meanwhile, Mom had my sister and I busy with the cleaning of the inside. We swept and scrubbed, and then carried in our belongings. Somewhere we found an old orange-brown couch, and sat it in the main room. Mom hung some white sheer curtains, trying to make it look homey. It helped. There were two small bedrooms, one was for our parents, and one was for us girls. My two brothers that were home at the time, slept in a small camper that we had. I think. I am having a hard time remembering where exactly they slept...

It was fun to explore the place after we got settled. There was a spring behind the house, bubbling up cold and fresh. There was a dandy 'dump' on the place, as well. It was great for finding all sorts of treasures. My favorite part was a gnarled old tree in the yard, with a low branch that grew out horizontal to the ground. It was a great tree for sitting in, and thinking. I spent alot of time in that old tree.

We needed a mailbox, and being too broke to buy one, my brothers made one out of wood. It was crude, but it held mail. That is, till the mail carrier informed us that it was not an appropriate receptacle. She said it was not weather proof. I always wondered about that... I mean, if we didn't care if our letters got rained on, why should she? Probably some regulations, I suppose.

There was no bathroom inside the house. There was a outhouse in the backyard, and a beaten dirt path leading to it. I don't remember where we took our baths, but I suppose we probably went to my uncle's place, which was just over the hill and around the bend. It was summer, and I don't remember doing much of anything there... mainly I explored the woods behind the house, and sometimes helped my sister tend the baby. I remember my mom taking me on an early-morning walk to the top of a hill and watching the sunrise. It was lovely, all peachy-pink and glowing. The dewy fields were misty and quiet. The horses in the pasture were standing calmly, and the birds singing their early morning songs.

The days we spent at the shack were long and boring. We didn't have much to do. Sometimes Mom would give us kids a few quarters, and we would walk a half mile to a small store. It was a country store, sorta like a convenience store - minus the gasoline. We would buy Little Debbie cakes and Swiss Rolls. We would agonize over the decision, because we didn't get treats very often. Then we would walk home through the warm meadow grasses, with the bugs chirring, and the sun beating down on our backs.

I don't really remember what my dad did during that time. I think he may have worked at a sawmill. My brothers may have worked there, too. I was just too young to notice. I was about 8 or 9, I guess. I know Mom and us girls went to visit our cousins quite a bit, having nothing else to do. We would take our laundry and then stay a half a day, helping my aunt.

I don't know why I felt like writing about the shack, but I know this: it was one experience in my life that made me love my conveniences. Its one of the reasons I like to dream of pioneer life, but never want to live it. I have many more similar stories, and sometime I will tell you another... People always think it was so romantic and fun to be always moving and having so many different experiences. It wasn't. But it was educational. And while my family who reads this will remember all the stuff that I left out of the story - may you remember to be thankful.
Especially if you never had to live in a shack that had 4 small rooms, along with your 5 other siblings and your parents. By the way, this was only one house and one state out of the 12 states and 30-40 houses I have lived in, growing up. No, its not a joke, and no, I am not stretching it. It's just hard to remember all the houses unless I have the help of my siblings.

By the way, in case you just can't imagine that it was so bad, let me tell you a secret; there was awful turmoil in our family while we were living there, so don't always assume that families are as fun or perfect as they look on the surface.


  1. far too often we romanticize about the past or others lifestyle. rarely is it all as glamorous as it may seem to others. As for your family, knowing you all as i do, I always knew it wasn't glamorous( I never knew how your Mom could do it) but i always respected and admired your Mom and you girls' pluck and courage!
    And we do find out through experiences like that , that we don't need things as nice as we sometimes think we do and that sometimes it has better equipped us to deal with life!- Valerie

  2. Kay,

    I happened across your blog today and the word Wyoming caught my eye! We moved to Casper from OK last year and are looking to relocate to the Cheyenne/Laramie area. You mentioned in one of your posts that you travel to CO to church. Could you tell me what church it is? It is important to us to find a good church before we move. I am a homeschool mom of nine. Is the church that you go to large family friendly? The dress you made from the shirt is darling!! We also dress modestly and haven't found any other families that do up here.

    My email address is if you would like to contact me back.


    Marsha Sawyer


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