Confluence Chronicles – Where City & County Meet 12-14-09
“I have no sentimental attachment to this farm,” so said my dad as he prepared to move into his new house in town.
I am still incredulous. How could that be? After 48 years of ownership and residence? Construction of a brand new house, built with my parents’ sweat equity. Am I more attached because I spent my formative years, from age 5 until marriage, on the place?
“Remember when we raised sheep?” I asked him.
Those sheep. So many had to be assisted at birthing. It was common for twins to appear, even triplets. The ewes had no sense. Someone had to be there at the moment and pen the new momma and her offspring into a small pen we called a “jug.” I never knew why – maybe it was like a jail and that was a timely slang term for jail.
In another era of the lamb’s life, we fed them corn and fattened them for slaughter. The best price was shortly before Passover; the Jewish people wanted them and we sold and shipped the fat lambs to Omaha on a train – a direct market to the kosher killing plants. Feeding a raucous bunch of Pavlovian-trained lambs – they heard the buckets rattle and they knew mealtime was nigh – was a problem for me. A 5-pound bucket of shelled corn weighs right at 35 pounds. I had a bucket in each hand and I weighed less than 90. The lambs were half as tall as I, and what one could call enthusiastic. They butted me and sometimes knocked me down, sending the buckets askew, corn sprawling and lambs gorging. Those wrecks always made me mad and sometimes left me with cuts and scratches from hooves. The only thing truly hurt was my pride. I couldn’t help it I wasn’t big enough to control the situation.
How could Dad not be sentimental? This place earned him his dreams.
Before we bought the place, we rented a house, and a few farm fields on which to raise the crops to sustain the family and feed the cows we had acquired. The feeding was done by loading 40 small, square hay bales on the pickup and once we were at the cow pasture Dad would ride in the back of the pickup, cut the strings on the bales, and pitch the hay onto the ground for the cows. I “drove” the pickup for him. (I was 5.) Actually I just kept it going in a more or less straight line so it wouldn’t circle around. Dad put it in the lowest gear so it barely crawled along, then jumped out and into the back of the pickup. I had a job!
On one of those feeding treks I remember Dad telling me his goal in life was to own 40 cows and, someday he wanted to be a land appraiser. I had a vague notion of what that was as Dad spent a lot of time with a banker who also appraised land. I’d heard them talk.
Why I recall those conversations I do not know. It was not remarkable at the time but it stuck with me.
It may have been my first lesson in long term goal planning because 13 years later Dad opened a real estate office and began taking appraisal course shortly thereafter. He now appraises ranches and farms throughout western South Dakota.
Peggy can be reached through peggy@PeggySanders.com.
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