early-day farms and ranches appeared to be small towns because of
all the out-buildings on the premises.
The small additions were added as families grew and when prosperity
allowed the expenditure. An original homestead usually consisted
of a dugout, half-dugout or small frame dwelling.
This often evolved into basements or root-cellars as homes were
enlarged or remodeled. A much-needed addition sometimes came as
porches and verandas were added for hot weather relief and shade,
a scarce item on the treeless prairie.
Most early homes had an outhouse of some sort depending on the economy
of the era. The shanty-types had to be moved from time to time and
eventually evolved into well-built, permanent structures provided
by the Great Depression era of WPA programs for rural home improvement.
The turn of the century brought drilled water wells with windmills
and hand pumps.
Overhead water storage tanks sitting on raised platforms evolved
into well-houses when the platforms were enclosed. The common well-house
evolved into a wash house with the advent of the washing machine
and rendered the wash pot, poke-stick and lye soap obsolete. Wash
houses often had hot showers added for the harvest time employees.
Another important structure, the chicken house made hard times better
by providing fresh eggs and meat for the table and a source of outside
income by selling eggs. Serious chicken-raisers added another brooder
house to the property operating incubators or ordering chicks from
hatcheries and raising flocks of chickens from scratch.
A smoke house graced the farms of people who processed and cured
their own meat. The inside was black with smoke and the rafters
hung solid with hams, sides of bacon and other meats. Some smoke
houses, like my grandmother's, were built over root cellars where
other farm produce was stored. A friend near Higgins had a big smoke
house and his pack of greyhounds always lay downwind to enjoy the
Lack of firewood on the early-day bare prairies sometimes inspired
the building of a chip house in which to store cow chips. In later
years, firewood, coal and kerosene were stored there. After propane
arrived, an electric generator could be housed in the old chip house.
With the advent of sacked feed cubes for livestock, the need for
cake houses arose.
Some, like the
man we purchased our ranch from, installed a used box-car raised
to truck bed height to make loading and unloading easier. We also
had a salt house in which to store livestock salt.
No ranch was complete without a saddle house and feed house to store
the ranch tack and horse feed. We also have a bunk house built in
1921 to house the single cowboys working on the ranch. From these
many small out-buildings we now go to sheds. There were hog sheds,
buggy sheds, blacksmith shop, wagon sheds and when automobiles arrived,
Now you can see why many farms and ranches resembled small towns
when you approached.
Today, a huge metal barn houses all such needs under one roof. Something
seems to be missing.
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"
- May 22, 2006