Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Huey Ranch History

It was in the early 1930’s when George and Grace Huey of Yuma, Colo, purchased the Tracy Ranch, located 9 and ½ miles northwest of Haigler Nebraska.

George Huey owned and operated a butcher shop , purchasing animals from local farmers. It was a very successful operation. Grace had obtained a property north of Yuma, and later married George. She had been my Dad, Pat Smith's, school teacher. They had invested quite heavily in insurance after the failure of the banks and savings and loan companies. Their insurance and real estate representative began encouraging them to consider the great opportunities in real estate investments and explaining his recent listing of the Tracy Ranch 9 ½ miles north of Haigler, Neb. They decided to inspect the property and after inspecting it, they transferred their insurance investments to the purchase of the Ranch and necessary livestock. This required the need to hire a man to look after the cattle.

The Huey's contacted my Dad for referral of someone qualified. He suggested his friend Alec Link might be interested, and he was hired . Soon after Alec began his job, his wife passed away leaving his daughter Teresa to care for. My parents immediately gave her a home with them. But tragedy had struck Teresa again, when Alec's neighbors observed his saddle horse with empty saddle circling an object. After deciding to investigate, they found Alec with the bridle reins secured to his arm. He had suffered a heart attack. A deep path remained visible for a long time.

The Huey's again contacted my Dad asking if he would please consider taking over management of the ranch. After discussing the options available to them with my Mother, they decided to accept the offer. As a blizzard was heading toward Haigler, it was necessary for my Dad to leave immediately and the Hueys assisted my Mother in making the necessary moving arrangements.

This would mean Teresa would be returning to her home with all the memories, and my mother made it as pleasant as possible for her.

The Ranch house was a two story concrete block structure, 3 bedrooms up two bedrooms down with a full basement, a dreary looking gray non painted, but it would become home with lots of effort and TLC.

The out buildings consisted of over 500 ft of cattle sheds and adjoining board corrals, an 8 stall horse barn with mangers and an adjoining hay yard and a corn crib and adjoining storage shed.

A two story bunk house, pictured here, designed for housing extra workers when needed. The ranch was obviously designed for substantial expansion of the operation by previous owners. A well designed 32 volt electrical plant was built, 32 V belt driven generator two slate panels 3 ft square mounted on a wall with numerous relays switches meters and gauges remaining on the panels all of the main buildings had been partially wired but never completely connected to a one cylinder engine and there were shelves remaining for the necessary 16 glass storage batteries all in the specially built block house,

There were several abandoned homestead sites close to the sub irrigated meadowland some had dug the cellars for storage of food some contained canned fowl, probably pheasant duck and rabbit meat in jars. I remember my Dad tearing down several buildings for the lumber for repairs on the ranch when needed. This was during the severe drought when farmers crops failed and tumble weeds survived very well. The pasture fences adjoining these fields collected the tumble weeds and the wind would blow the dry sand in. Drifts covering the weeds resembling winter snow drifts. The fences became covered and required many hours of rebuilding as the cattle could easily walk over the fences if not regularly inspected.

Dad's neighbors frequently expressed their opinion that he had exchanged his bed for a lantern just to keep up. There were over 200 acres of crop land some planted to corn for horse feed and the remaining to cane. The equipment consisted of a 7 ft disc , a one row lister and a two row go-dig all horse drawn. His day usually began at 4:00 am and ended at dark.

The Haying season usually began in late August. It required hiring neighbors, some had a team of horses they would rent. It was necessary to operate three 5 ft horse drawn mowers. It would require approximately a full day to mow enough meadow grass to build one stack of hay. The hay would require drying before it was raked up in windrows and then bunched in piles using a 10 ft sulky dump rake. Usually two rakes are used for one big stack. The bunched hay was pushed onto a hay sweep or commonly called a buck using two horses pushing the load onto a stacker. The load was elevated up using a team of horses to pull the cable attached to the stacker and dumping it in one pile. Usually two men would then evenly distribute the hay with pitchforks and wait for another load. The stacks were usually over 18 ft high. When completed there were usually 18 stacks built each year producing enough hay for feeding the year old animals for the winter months until the spring grass was ready for pasturing. The listed cane was usually cut with a one row binder, creating bundles that required shocking in tee-pee appearing piles for later using a pitchfork and carefully placing them on a hay rack and hauling them to the ranch buildings. This feed was later fed to cattle during cold and wintry weather supplementing the winter pasture grass.

The drought covered a large territory, and as usual, grass hoppers made their presence well known. One morning Glen Himberg was stacking hay for the ranch and drew everyones attention to the huge clouds of hoppers beginning to fly overhead. They soon covered the sun resembling an eclipse. Newspaper articles had reported hoppers descending on crop land and nearly destroying all vegestation. It was discovered soon that pitchfork and shovel handles could not be left uncovered. During noon and evening meal breaks they were severely damaged by the hoppers. While attending the State Fair in 1974, I toured the Entimology Building where grasshoppers measuring over 4 inches long with large wingspans were on display, they had been collected from western Nebraska, and eastern Colorado.

During the period commonly referred to as the dust bowl days, I was attending school at District 76. My first grade teacher was Grace Sampson. She was married to Fred Stute.

One day dad was repairing fence close to the school house when Charlie Thompsom, a neighbor to the north, stopped to visit a bit. He had just killed a very large rattle snake and was showing his collection of the rattles, a gallon jar nearly full of them. My dad asked him if he would drive over by the students out for recess and show them the collection and impress on them the need for caution as the school house was built in the midst of a huge prairie dog town. Charlie gladly obliged and it greatly impressed on them the dangers of the tall grass nearby. Dad had treated numerous animals for snake bite while living here.

As we had extra rooms available, the teachers usually boarded with us. This usually required providing transportation during bad weather. My dad built a two wheel cart and used a gentle pony to pull it. A straw shed was built out of old hay and hog wire. This worked very well.

Occasionally we would walk to school, cutting across the pasture, but not during the time when the rattlers were out. My mother would drive the old model T, she had learned to pull down the spark, the throttle and give the crank a quick pull and we were off and going. Only thing bothered was the sand piles in the middle of the road and the holes made by the wind. It was necessary to have a burlap sack to place under the wheel for gaining traction and a shovel when all else failed.

As many surrounding areas were also very dry, the Oklahoma red dust would raise high and often times it would cover the sun leaving a red residue when moisture hit it. The residue looked like blood, even though the wind was calm.

The wind was calm, but the sun was darkened. The teacher had to light the kerosene lamps, and students were not allowed outside without supervision. Windows were stuffed with wet rags to prevent the soon to come wind, from covering everything with the red dust that was originating from Oklahoma. Later when a snow fell, it resembled blood on the boards. YUK !! The chickens would actually go to their roosts and cattle would actually bed down like evening although the wind was calm here. I remember my dad having to run calves in and wash dirt out of their noses so they could breathe when the wind would come up.

After Teresa had become adjusted, her aunt living in Missouri asked her to come and visit with her for awhile. While she was there in Missouri, she became interested in a young man and later they married. His name was Albert Beem. He was an employee of Remington Rand, an ammunitions manufacturer, and quickly advanced up the line to management level. He was asked to take a very serious position at Richland Washington building a Cyclatron underground facility, working with plutonium and other radioactive materials, requiring him to be checked frequently with a Geiger counter to determine if he was contaminated with radioactivity. This was the beginning of developing materials for the atomic bomb, very confidential at that time. There were only two houses in Richland, Washington when they moved there. It quickly developed into a major city.

The young couple came home quite frequently as he became infected with radioactivity and suffered a heart attack while in his late thirties and was given an occupational disability income for his devotion.

How many of you reading this recall your experiences or listened to your parents telling you of theirs? Why not get a camera, a video recorder or just a pen and paper and take a few minutes and record the precious memories of today? Tomorrow they will be gone forever. I Know this from my own experience.

--Written and submitted by Don Smith


  1. Don, what a wonderful article about the Ranch and experiences. I enjoyed reading it very much.

  2. Good writings Don, keep up the good work. When George Huey bought the place was it the Glenn Tracy place? Glenn was a brother to Harve and moved to Theford.

  3. I think he move to Thedford it might have been Anisworth. Cal Freehling

  4. Many people have said how much they enjoy your stories,Don. They are all too shy to try the comments. We hope you will tell us more.


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