Look around about any sizable gathering of farmers and/or ranchers and you’ll most likely discover that several generations are represented. Of course, I always scan the crowd for those whom I think of as, not old, mind you, but “experienced.”
Which got me to thinking about ways to tell when you know you’ve become an “experienced” farmer or rancher, or if you still need more water to run under your bridge to reach that benchmark (probably a bad choice of expression since we haven’t had any water run under any bridge for longer than I can remember.)
Here are some of the ways I’ve thought of that definitely define you as an “experienced” farmer or rancher ...
■ When you don’t have to roll down the window in your pickup to spit because you can hit the hole in the floor board with your eyes shut — even when it’s on the passenger side.
■ A city friend mentions hamburger and you think of the steer that broke his hip yesterday and see a way to turn the accident into a profit.
■ When you take one look at a newborn calf in your pasture and you know exactly which one of your neighbor’s bulls made an unauthorized visit nine months ago.
■ When you can recite the names and EPD’s of all the bulls that you use in your herds, but have a hard time remembering all your grandkids’ names.
■ When you have a bad cold and look at that bottle of “Agricillin” in the dusty ol’ fridge in the barn, think about the high cost and inconvenience of a doctor’s visit, so you grab the cattle syringe and give yourself a couple of CCs. After all, a snotty nose is a snotty nose, be it bovine or homo sapiens.
■ You turn the first-calf heifers in with the bull and think about that sad day years ago when you sent your daughter off to college.
■ When the dressing room in your horse trailer becomes your second honeymoon suite.
■ When quality time alone with your husband consists of hauling big round bales with him.
■ Every time you see a discarded bathtub you think stock water tank.
■ When you turn up the thermostat and call the propane man and never give a thought to cutting fire wood.
■ When working cattle, you claim the hydraulic controls on the cattle chute as your proprietary right due to seniority.
■ You never consider fixing anything mechanical without first grabbing a pair of pliers, a length of baling wire, a roll of duct tape and a can of WD45.
■ When you absolutely refuse to enter any cab on any machine unless the radio and air conditioner/heater are in perfect working order.
■ When you voluntarily give up your seat in a saddle for a seat behind the steering wheel on an ATV or utility vehicle.
■ When “blocking at the road” is your exclusive role on a group pheasant or deer hunt.
■ When you’re much happier in the role of “go-fer” than manager.
■ When you mosey to town in your pickup and you spend more time looking out both side windows at your neighbor’s things than you have looking out the windshield at the road.
■ When you never miss any kind of extension meeting or aggie convention if there’s food and drink involved — especially if it’s free.
■ When you claim to have “lost” your hay hook and fencing pliers and refuse to buy new ones.
■ When you keep blaming “that darn kid” for all the problems on your farm or ranch, and “that darn kid” just turned 50.
■ And, finally, when you figger that some of the world’s greatest philosophers are Baxter Black, Jerry Palen’s Elmo and Flo, and, hopefully, Milo Yield.
When you hunt with bird dogs, you learn to never be surprised at their unexpected behavior — both good and bad.
When the quail season opened in Kansas, I got to start hunting some of my pen-raised quail. Those kind of slow-paced hunts are about all I’m up to these days.
At any rate, during the summer I acquired — for free — an 8-year-old liver and white French Brittany female who had never been hunted before. However, I have hunted over some of her pups and they are excellent bird dogs.
“Liv,” as I call her, is rather timid, and, while not truly gun shy, she always looks a little startled when I shoot over her. But, if she sees a bird fall, she’s eager to retrieve it.
Well, on opening day, we were hunting in a pasture that wuz new territory for Liv and she retrieved a bird right to me. However, on the second day I wuz hunting on the west side of Damphewmore Acres. When I downed a bird in front of her that day, Liv grabbed the dead bird and made a beeline for her kennel almost a quarter of a mile away.
I never did find the bird, so I guess she either ate it or buried it. I’ll never know why her “bird brain” short-circuited in that manner. My hopes for her have dimmed considerably, but I still hope she figgers out what hunting is all about.
I’ll close for the week with wise words about experience from the great American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. He said: “The years teach much which the days never know.” Have a good ’un. ❖
You turn the first-calf heifers in with the bull and think about that sad day years ago when you sent your daughter off to college.