Thunder Butte

January 04, 2008

Winter on Thunder Butte Creek -- Part Two

In the late summer, all hands turned out for 'Haying Season'. Sometimes only my Dad did the haying, cutting grass with a large sickle mower pulled behind a team of horses. Following the mowing, someone would come along with a hay rake pulled by a team of horses and pile the hay into drifts.

When the hay had been raked and winnowed in the field for a couple of weeks, it would be hauled in with a hay wagon and stacked in great tall stacks near the ranch. Enter the rabbits: During the dead of winter when the snow piled high over the grass, rabbits would come in great droves during the night and eat at the bottom of the hay stacks. After a while, if they ate long enough, the stack would become top heavy and fall over, and the rabbits would continue eating until they had eaten tons of hay.

Enter the shooters: If we were lucky, the moon would come into the full phase when the rabbit hordes were overrunning the hay stacks. We would lay in the top of the haystacks during this moon phase, with our .22 rifles and shoot rabbits as they approached the stack.

On a good night, a bad one for the rabbits, we would shoot hundreds upon hundreds of rabbits. They were of a single purpose, all they seemed aware of was the food at the hay stack, so it was quite easy to keep shooting until we had eliminated an entire wave of rabbits. No one seemed to think of this rabbit shooting as fun, it was self preservation. If we didn't save the hay, the animals would starve, and if the animals starved, so would we. Another facet of this venture was the selling of the rabbit carcasses. When we had finished shooting, the rabbit bodies would freeze rapidly. Then we would pile the bodies in a huge stack where they would remain frozen until someone could ride into Faith and notify the 'hide and fur' people who would eventually come by with a huge truck and cart off the rabbit bodies. The hides would be turned into fur coats and the meat would be turned into pet food.

I do not recall anyone ever laying around during those times. Couch potatoes had not developed yet—maybe because their were very few couches. We only had chairs, and pretty uncomfortable ones at that. It was easier to sit on a horse than to sit in the house.

--John Crowley
Mike Crowley Friday, January 04, 2008


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