Tag Archives: Irons in the fire

HOME – Paul Marchant

As you may know, Paul Marchant’s blogs are often found in my entries here. This month’s “Irons In the Farm” is another essay which really touches my heart.

Shabbat Shalom!

tauna

HOME – Paul Marchant as found in Progressive Forage Magazine.

Irons in the fire: Home

Paul Marchant for Progressive Forage Published on 01 December 2020

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Home to me is the early morning bang and echo of horseshoes on old trailer floorboards. It’s the half-eager, half-asleep complaint of the 8-year-old who can’t find his spurs as he clambers into the pickup.

Home is the after-dark smell of horse sweat on wet blankets and the joyful relief in an old pony’s groan as he rolls in the dirt at the end of a long day on the mountain.

Home is the constant, all-night droning of 300 freshly weaned calves in the pens right outside the bedroom window and the stab of angst in my heart when they break through the fence. It’s the heavy emptiness in the pit of my gut when the buzzards are hopping around some still, silent, lifeless black object in the bottom of the draw a quarter-mile away or the jump my heart feels as I watch an old mama cow or a first-time heifer as she nudges her newborn to stand up on its unstable, brand-new legs.

Home is dust in my eyes, grit in my teeth and the wind in my face; it’s the smell of diesel exhaust on a 20-below morning or new leather gloves at the start of a 3-mile fence. Home is the squeal of school bus brakes at 6:48 and the canine symphony of two heelers and a shag barking at the UPS man. It’s wire-cut colts and half-broke mares and the arrow-straight tailhead of my daughter’s last show steer.

Home is the squeak of sneakers at practice in the old gym and the conference championship in the new gym. It’s the late-night reliving of the 24-point, 10-assist game and the all-night tears of missing the cut. Home is the joy and the exasperation with a litter of new pups and the heartbreak of putting an old dog down. It’s an auctioneer’s chant and a Sunday morning sermon, a cat underfoot and storm clouds overhead.

Home is cold Halloween nights with a pile of sugar-high goblins, Thanksgiving with grandkids in Wyoming or a lonely couple’s first Christmas away from family on a remote, high-desert ranch in eastern Nevada. It’s disappointment and elation, sorrow and satisfaction, joy and heartbreak, comfort and irritation.

Home smells like fresh-cut hay and bone-dry sagebrush. Home is too much rain in May, too much sun in September and too much snow when I’m calving heifers. It’s a premium from the buyer of last year’s calves and a gut punch from the worn-out transmission in the old pickup. It’s the first call home from the son in the army and sitting up all night on the porch with the 3-year-old with croup. It’s fighting with kids to finish homework, feed the horses or shut the door and my pretending I wasn’t worried when they got home a half-hour late from the homecoming dance.

Home is early mornings and late payments, new bills on old trucks and broke-in saddles on half-broke horses, homegrown tomatoes on a cull-cow hamburger and late-night calls informing me the cows are out. Home is my wife leaving me stranded in the sorting pen when I cuss her for missing the bad-eyed cow but still fixing me a midnight supper after a late-night fair board meeting in town.

My home is loaded with imperfections, but the grandkids are still perfect, wherever they may be. It’s Christmas music in November, hymns on Sunday and country music in the truck.

Home has been eastern Nevada, central Utah and southern Idaho. Home is, has been and will probably always be a lot of different things. But home is where I belong. It’s more than a town or a house. It’s not just a place, at least it shouldn’t be just a place – not for me, not for anyone. Home should be where you want to be. Home should be where your heart feels best, even if it sometimes hurts.

So, as this chaotic year comes to a close, take some time to appreciate home, wherever and whatever it may be to you. Be calm. Be quiet. Listen to the stillness and turn your heart to Him. That’s where you will always find home.  end mark

Paul Marchant is a cowboy and part-time freelance writer based in southern Idaho. Follow him on Twitter or email Paul Marchant.Paul Marchant

Start Somewhere

Paul Marchant hits it out of the park with great story telling to address the current issues from a ranching perspective.  Rural United States and perhaps rural worldwide is more concerned with carrying on, building, and improving lives vs destroying lives.

Irons in the fire: Start somewhere

Paul Marchant for Progressive Cattle Published on 24 June 2020

Way back when I was in grade school, one of the biggest events of the year was the science fair for the fifth- and sixth-graders.

Every kid in the school walked through and watched and listened to the presentations one afternoon during a designated school day, and parents and the public attended that evening. From the time I was in kindergarten and walked through my first science fair, I knew what subject I wanted when I got my turn in what seemed to be the far-off future.

Beef cows were always my passion, so when I got my chance as an eager and geekishly charming sixth-grader, I put my whole heart into the project. I had my script memorized and my presentation technique as polished as a northern Arizona turquoise necklace. (If only I’d had such zeal as a less-than-stellar college student.)

It was back in the day when Herfies still ruled the world. I could tell you all about Warren Gammon and how he developed the Polled Hereford breed. I loved the story of the King Ranch Gerts and how they laid claim to the title of first true American breed. Continental cattle were just starting to make some real noise, and I was enthralled with the novelty and the variety they offered. But perhaps the philosophy which most intrigued me was that of Tom Lasater as he worked to develop the Beefmaster breed, with his “six essential” traits and the proclamation that hide color doesn’t matter when the T-bone is on the platter.

To this day, I still haven’t been around a lot of Beefmaster cattle, but we did have one Beefmaster cow that came with a load of cows we bought out of southern Utah 25 or so years ago. Coincidentally, one of her calves was the first 4-H show steer of my oldest son, the first of somewhere around 100 4-H and FFA steer projects we went through. (I haven’t done all the math, but the first part of the equation is five kids.) He was a moderate, stout, square-made chunk whose solid color and lack of any extra sheath, ear or brisket belied his bottom-side pedigree and thus spared him any prejudice which he may have otherwise been subjected to in the show ring. That particular steer ended up fourth place overall in a big, competitive county fair show, and he was at the top end when he hung on the rail, as well.

I always figured the relative success of that little black steer kind of validated old Tom Lasater’s philosophies. But frankly, with the way the world’s spinning these days, I think I’m just confused. Who would have guessed a simple ranch-raised calf out of an average old Beefmaster cow and by a nondescript Limousin bull would admirably compete in the beauty contest and still hang a high-Choice, Yield Grade 2 carcass? If that little steer had shown a little more of his mama’s heritage in his hair color, his ear or his dewlap, in all likelihood he would not have stood at the top end of his class. Would that have diminished his value, regardless of what was under his hide?

It’s a tricky question, one you’re probably a little leery of answering, especially if you’re unsure of who may be listening. It can be answered in more than one way. Sure, his value is diminished to the exhibitor if he’s buried at the bottom of the class, gets a red ribbon and sells at the end of the sale order. But wait, there’s more. To the floor buyer who gets that calf at a dollar or two below market and sees the premiums add up because of a superior carcass, he’s worth a lot more than the winner of class 3 that turned out to be a Select dark cutter.

Now, kids, ladies and gents, there’s much to be learned here. For starters, if you want to learn how to handle disappointment, jump into the world of youth livestock shows on any level. It’s more frustrating than golfing with a stick. The good ones can win and the good ones can lose. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. It’s fun to win and it’s good to know you can survive losing.

I wanted this to be about more than a cute story about my grade school science fair or my kid’s first steer. I wanted it to be more than a quaint life lesson about winning and losing and handling disappointment. I wanted to sum up human sociology and race relations and what’s right and what’s wrong with the world in a neat little 900-word package by simply telling you it’s what’s inside that really matters, you can’t judge a book by its cover, and we can overcome what ails us.

But I can’t. I couldn’t do it in 900 pages or 900 volumes of 900-page books. I, like you I suppose, am angry and confused and tired and overwhelmingly sad over so many things and so many people. Such times can make us prone to despair. But please don’t give in to despair. I can’t fix Chicago or Minneapolis, but I can fix the gate in the north 40, and I can be decent to my family and my friends and those in my corner of the world. I can start somewhere. So can you. end mark

Paul Marchant is a cowboy and part-time freelance writer based in southern Idaho. Follow him on Twitter, or email Paul Marchant.

Paul Marchant

One Millimeter At A Time

One of my favorite storytellers is Paul Marchant, who publishes short essays in Progressive Cattleman magazine, amongst others.  His May blog is apropos for our time as a reminder to take one day, one moment at a time.

His tongue-in-cheek humor may not relate to someone not familiar with raising, calving, caring for cattle, but for the most part – his messages are clear and straight forward.

A note i will add is that we often make decisions which make life more difficult than it should be.  Calving in the winter is not a good decision for neither man, nor beast.  In nature, those calves will largely die due to cold – when do the bison calve?  Mid-April to June in north central Missouri.  Where ever you live observe natural processes.  This will also demonstrate that huge calves will also result in pain and death.  Pain and death is a sad part of our fallen world, but there is no reason to encourage or perpetuate bad situations and decisions.  (bearing in mind, that nature being what it is, sometimes big calves just happen, but usually not).  Part of the flooding (much is just too much precipitation all at once) is also bad decision making, much of it out of the hands of we the people, but rather those made by government ‘professionals.’  But, all we can do is govern our own selves and decisions.

Shabbat Shalom!

tauna

 

 

Irons in the fire: One millimeter at a time

Paul Marchant for Progressive Cattleman Published on 24 April 2019

A happy and healthy post-prolapse pair enjoys an evening meal.

It was shaping up to be a good spring day. The snow was pretty much gone, and the mud was drying up. It was one of the first days of the year that dared me to attack it without the aid of muck boots or snow packs on my feet.

The light gray clouds in the sky danced with the wind and the sun, a ballet that enticed me to leave my coat in the pickup if not in the closet back at the house.

We were a couple of weeks into calving and were getting several calves a day. For the most part, luck had been on my side. Apart from a couple of bitter cold nights to start things off, we’d survived to that point without anything I’d classify as a wreck. I’d doctored a few for scours, so I was a little on edge, but we weren’t losing them.

I stopped in at the house for a quick lunch before we set back out to string up a hot wire around a corner of the southwest pivot where we were keeping a little bunch of heifers. Before we started with the project, I figured we should make a quick trip through the biggest herd of cows just to see if we needed to tag one or two new calves.

As the old pickup bounced across the ruts and brush, my eye was drawn to the far corner of the field, where an ominous scene was unfolding. I’d noticed the big old Simmy-cross cow earlier in the day. I expected her to calve that day. What I didn’t expect was what I found. She was one of the marker cows: big, black, white-faced with the old traditional Simmental markings you don’t see much of any more. She never raised much of a calf, but I kept her around, thinking she may someday produce a show-worthy 4-H calf.

As we approached, I could see my anticipated yet unwelcomed wreck had arrived. The old cow lay there on her left side, legs outstretched and a 120-pound calf shivering behind her. What distressed me was the full uterine prolapse that accompanied the calf. My heart sank as I beheld the scene.

“Do you want to call the vet?” my dad asked.

I answered in the negative. It was Saturday afternoon, and I figured Trevor, the ever-patient vet, would be at a roping in Pocatello or anywhere else where he could catch his breath and a break from his country vet dream life. As much as I wanted to outsource this burdensome project, I figured I could at least save a dollar or two, since I figured she’d die anyway.

There is no metaphor or simile or analogy to properly describe a full-blown bovine uterine prolapse and its treatment. It’s what you use to describe some other unfathomable task. When Sir Edmund Hillary asked what ascending Everest would be like, his Sherpa guide no doubt told him it was akin to fixing a prolapsed cow.

I raced back to the barn to fetch the umbilical tape and a needle. I had nothing to give for a spinal block, so I could only hope the old girl wouldn’t fight too much. I needed a little fight in her but not so much it made the job more impossible than it already seemed. She did indeed have enough fight in her to stand up and try to trot away. I roped her, got a halter on her and tied her to the back of the pickup. At least she could stand. I’d at least have a little bit of gravity to help me.

Two hands are hardly enough to start the job, so my 82-year-old father gloved up and dove into the fray with me. All you can do is start the job and practice a little faith and trust in what you’re doing. You just keep working, a millimeter at a time, and amid the doubts, anxiety and fear, you eventually see some progress. Really, though, it doesn’t seem like you see any progress until somehow, miraculously, everything is back in place.

The clock said 35 minutes had passed. It was an eternally long half-hour, but we got the job done. The working conditions were just slightly less than sterile, so I loaded the cow up with antibiotics and stitched her up, all the while praying everything didn’t go inside out again. I wouldn’t have bet the farm on it, but the old girl survived. So did the calf. As desperate as the situation seemed, we all came through it.

I couldn’t help but think of this miniature personal struggle as I’ve watched the massive and tragic devastation in the wake of Mother Nature’s powerful theatrics in Australia and America’s Heartland these past months. I’ve been hesitant to mention it in my insignificant prose because I am vastly underqualified and overwhelmed. My finite ability to comprehend the tragedy of it all hardly allows me to lend any commentary at all.

Yet I hear of and see people who have been ravaged and deeply impacted by these catastrophic events rise up and take their own brand of fight to the battle before they’ve even had a chance to put on a pair of dry socks. It gives me hope. Hope in not only their recovery but in all of us and our ability to overcome devastation, weakness and pettiness. They’re fighting on, one millimeter at a time.  end mark

PHOTO: A happy and healthy post-prolapse pair enjoys an evening meal. Photo by Paul Marchant.

Paul Marchant

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