by Delbert Trew
despite weather conditions
winter's near-zero temperatures brought to mind the early day winters
long before insulated clothing and good car heaters were invented.
Instead of our sunny weather, we suffered from blizzards and continuous
'blue northers' raging across the Midwest on a regular schedule.
Heavy rain on unimproved black dirt roads brought announcements from
schools that school buses would only run on the pavements. At that
time, the nearest pavement to our house was nine miles away. Snow
days were snow weeks back then. Rural residents thought nothing of
being stranded at home for days at a time because they were prepared
for that eventuality
No matter the weather conditions, work on the farm or ranch continued.
Livestock had to be tended and chores were done regardless. Everyone
wore long-handles, extra socks, and a regular suit of clothing with
overalls over the top. Add overshoes, a heavy coat, neck scarf, mittens
and a cap with ear flaps and you could barely walk, let alone mount
a saddled horse.
I have written before about the late John E. Ekelund, an early day
Amarillo pioneer who worked in a clothing store. After each blizzard,
cowboys from around the area rode their horses into Amarillo
to purchase more warm clothing. Many had frostbitten faces, fingers
and toes and sported peeled and bleeding faces after being exposed
to the extreme Panhandle cold winds.
I remember a time when I was about 10 to 12 years old when our family
made a trip to Amarillo
to buy more warm clothing. Our main store was the Army and Navy store
on Fillmore Street. We bought Levis, khaki shirts, overalls, socks
and underwear, gloves, mittens and overshoes. On this particular trip
the store had just received a shipment of Navy pea coats. They were
dark Navy blue in color and made of wool. The tails came down to below
your hips. The front had big lower pockets and best of all had two
slitted pockets above in which to warm your hands. The front buttoned
up fully with large buttons with ship's anchors embossed on the surface.
The coat also had a heavy collar that turned up, providing protection
from the wind and blowing snow. I know the tall collar saved my life
several times by giving added protection. Back at home, after the
first wearing, adjustments had to be made. It seems the Navy did not
ride horses and the split tails had to be cut higher to fit over the
back of the saddle better. Mother attended to this modification quickly.
The Army and Navy Store provided another memorable Trew family event
when it introduced cowboy boot overshoes. Up to this time, galoshes
or overshoes were made only to fit over brogans or flat-heeled work
boots. This wide design made riding horseback while wearing overshoes
a hazard. It was an accident waiting to happen because it was easy
to hang a foot in the stirrup.
The new, sleek, lightweight, four-buckle, fleece-lined overshoes with
a built-in boot heel design felt good, looked good, kept your feet
warm and were easy to insert and remove from a saddle stirrup. Dad
bought a pair for each of our family, our employees and a neighbor.
I have never been without a pair since.
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" >
December 15, 2006 Column