A Socratic Rancher 9-20-10
A few folks have noted that I seem to have special understanding for what comes out the back end of a bull, this being my fifth consecutive bull story.
This one has it origins back in the early 1990s, when I decided to try to grow winter wheat in the San Luis Valley. Enough people told me it was impossible that I had to try it. My main motivation was to bypass the unrelenting, unforgiving winds of April that always beat up on spring wheat. Even if spring-planted wheat came through the winds, it did so with a slight burn and bend that seemed to hold it back for the rest of the season. Winter wheat, on the other hand, would be near the boot when the April winds came, and thus much better equipped to stand up to them.
Every virtue has a corresponding drawback, of course. If fall planted wheat got too far along in the spring, the risk of a late frost could produce blanks in the seed heads. This problem presented itself on four circles of winter wheat I’d nursed along and “miraculously” made it into March, in, I believe, 1994. The obvious solution was to graze the wheat off, or mow it. My neighbor had hungry cows and we hatched a deal to accomplish the former. His cows had never seen succulent, green feed in March, and took to the wheat with expected enthusiasm. Four bulls were turned out with each group of a hundred cows.
To keep the cattle from rubbing on my center pivots, I turned the pivots on, in dry mode, at 15 percent, which kept the pivots moving along just enough to discourage the notion that they were stationary objects suitable for scratching. This worked well, and the cattle stayed away.
Except for one longhorn bull.
Lanky, white with brown mottles and spots, and a set of horns with a wingspan of about 6 feet, he was, even to a casual observer, the most bullish of all the bulls in that particular circle of wheat. He pawed the ground to dust his withers for action, snorting and bellowing his inspections of the herd for heat. The other bulls stood back. He knew his job, the others knew their place.
One evening I drove by checking fences, and noticed this bull had taken issue with the end tower of the center pivot. When the tower moved during its 30 percent interval, the bull lowered his head and charged the forward tire as if confronting an adversary. It was a curious, if humorous sight, a powerful beast going one-on-one with a powerful machine. Each time the center drive kicked in, the drive shafts twisting power to the wheel boxes where worm gears turned mighty bull gears, the mighty longhorn bull fought them off.
Until one of his horns got trapped in a tire tread where it met the earth, pinning the beast like a surprised wrestler. He then had to wait until the center drive cycled again, but even that did not quite free him. Dolorous bellows and angry mauling of the earth did no good, until the tire finally advanced enough to free him.
Once released, the massive beast stood full up, but backed up, spit flailing from his mouth, tail tightly between his legs, and thereafter he stayed a healthy distance away from mighty bull gears of the center pivot. And … I could be wrong, but it seemed he was a bit more courteous around the other bulls.
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After hail, flooding, a severe drought and a depressed market — all within months — Mike Kertzman says his days of ranching might be numbered.