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The importance of a mentor

For those who are discovering and moving to the rural and small-town areas of this country, it is important for you to strive to become part of the community. Volunteer at the local museum. Join the volunteer fire department; if you can’t fight fire, maybe you can help maintain the trucks or assist with fundraisers. Attend a local church. Perhaps one of the most important ways to learn about the community is to meet your neighbors and find a mentor or two. You can always bounce questions off of them and they won’t laugh — too hard. We have a neighbor who called and wanted to know if we kill rattlesnakes. Although I personally detest the things, the answer was, usually not. If the snake is in the yard and little kids are about, we might. Otherwise we just let them go on their merry way because they kill gophers that dig holes and cause us all sorts of problems in our fields and yards. Our coyotes and red foxes have the run of the place.

If you are new to farming/ranching, these tips will be helpful. Most farmers and ranchers are open to answering questions and guiding newbies. When you are the new person, you’ll do better if you have a sense of humor, as you will get teased — or at least you think it is teasing; some of the words you hear will make you wonder.

Cattle sometimes accidentally pick up bits of metal when they graze. When the neighbor tells that his cow has “hardware disease” and he is going to make the cow swallow a large magnet to collect the hardware so it won’t pass through her four stomachs and perforate one of them, believe him, it’s true. If a farmer mentions that she had a set of twin calves, a male and a female, and there is a 95% chance that the female is sterile, believe her; it’s true and the common terminology is that the female calf is a freemartin, also more formally a described as a hermaphrodite.

No matter how a first introduction happens, within the first few minutes the new neighbor will ask, “How many acres and/or cattle do you own?”

Country living etiquette says that question is considered to be the same as someone asking you how much money you have in the bank. If you already asked, because you didn’t know you shouldn’t, you may have heard the neighbor say something like, “We are about average for this area,” or some other vague reply. Now you know why.

Who will clear your driveway or private road when it snows? Your neighbor may do so once. Then you will need to figure out your subsequent action for the next snowstorm. Will you buy your own snow removal equipment? Will you pay someone to clear your private road? Either option is likely to not be on your list of bills to pay that first winter. It may be a surprise but it is another cost of country living and you will find many more unplanned expenses that are part and parcel to living away from city services. ❖


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