New Year’s wish: water · Part II

New Year’s wish: water · Part II
During the drought of the 1880s Nebraska farmers and ranchers dug irrigation ditches to use water from the Platte River. However, during wet years the irrigation ditches channeled water into the lowlands and created lakes and swamps. The farmers decided to try to drain this land and direct the water back into the Platte River. They hoped this ditching plow was the implement for the job. (Photo by Rod Beemer)

It’s the last day of 2012 and here in central Kansas we’re getting a nice snowfall which so far is staying on the fields. Although it isn’t expected to be a heavy snow, we’re thankful for any moisture we receive.

This ditcher was manufactured by Moore Bros. of Missouri and was shipped to Big Springs, Nebraska, in 1910. The plow was pulled by forty-eight head of oxen with another fifteen extra head of oxen kept on hand as replacements. The plow worked its way from Big Springs to eastern Wyoming and down river through Brule and Ogallala before reaching North Platte, Nebraska. These ditches were sometimes referred to as “Bull Ditches” because of the oxen used. It was said that the cost to the farmers was approximately $1,000 dollars per mile. (Photo by Rod Beemer)

As I mentioned in the last post, droughts and floods were – and still are – a constant thread woven into the fabric of the prairies and plains causing humans then and now to seek ways to beat the effects of Mother Nature’s bad side.

This is a “crab” anchor which was used with a pulley system that was hooked to the ditcher plow and oxen. It was a two-to-one or a three-to-one mechanical leverage device which required less pulling power but only allowed the ditcher to move one foot for every two or three feet the oxen moved. (Photo by Rod Beemer)

The images show implements I saw at the Lincoln County Historical Museum and Western Heritage Village in North Platte, Nebraska. Being an old farm boy and intrigued by machinery, they are pieces I would loved to have seen in action. Droughts and floods were the reasons they were brought to Nebraska just over a hundred years ago.

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