Tag Archives: Paul Marchant

Convictions of Honor and Good Sense

Another great blog by Paul Marchant

Irons in the fire: Convictions of honor and good sense

Paul Marchant for Progressive Cattle Published on 24 February 2020

His color was just ordinary old bay, but he was a real looker – big, stout hip; nice, neat, pretty head; solid, heavy bone; four black feet and built like a brick house.

I wasn’t a real virtuoso in the art of horse trading, but I figured a $1,200 investment was a surefire deal on one of the prettiest 3-year-old geldings I’d ever had a crack at. We weren’t exactly flush with cash, but I convinced my wife I knew what I was doing. In a couple years, and with a few wet saddle blankets, there was no doubt we’d get four or five times our money back. He was that kind of a horse.

Like the shiniest girl in the homecoming court, he seemed to have figured out that his looks could help him get away with quite a bit more than the average geek at the back of the class. From the first ride, he was a little goosey, but he was an honest bucker. He’d hog and snort pretty much the whole way across a 320, but he’d always buck in a straight line, so I got a counterfeit confidence in my super-punchiness. Every time I stepped aboard, I could count on some sort of action from him. But somehow, he never bucked me off, and I wasn’t going to give in.

It was mid-October. We were gathering off the mountain. It was nearly dark, and I’d been riding the prima donna bay since early that morning with nary a hint of mischief from him. I’d picked up half a dozen pairs and was following them down a steep trail out of a long canyon. To the right of the trail was a rough, rocky mass of brush and boulders. To the left was a steep 80-foot drop-off, with the creek running down the bottom of the canyon. It was at this particular juncture of space and time that the bay rascal decided to cut loose. I rode him through the first couple of jumps, but it quickly became apparent I was in a bad spot.

There was going to be a wreck. I bailed off on the uphill side and ended up with my feet in the air, in the middle of a big snowberry bush. By the time I’d gathered my senses and body parts and determined an ankle sprain and a bruised ego were the extent of my injuries, the noise and ruckus down the trail had stopped. I hobbled 75 yards down the trail where I found my erstwhile can’t-miss money maker in a scraped-up pile of horseflesh. He’d somehow managed to get his front leg through the breast collar, which sent him tail over tea kettle and brought his rampage to a halt. I got the mess of tack and horse untangled and got him resaddled. The horse didn’t really appear to be injured, but there was a trickle of blood coming from one nostril, and he seemed shrouded in a hazy humility.

I got to the trailer about an hour after dark and finally made it home, where I hobbled into the house to a wife and three young kids who’d long since learned to mask their worries when my return was hours later than it should have been. I cussed the horse as I told my tale, but I assured them I was pretty sure I’d finally “rode the rough off him.” And, indeed, I had. His little trickle of a nosebleed never really stopped, and a week later he died, a victim of his own foolishness and an apparent lung injury.

About 20 years later, I had another pretty bay horse, a mare. She had a colt my son named Winston, in honor of the late, great British prime minister, whom my son had often heard me praise. One of my favorite Churchill quotes was from his “never give in” speech, which he gave in October of 1941 at his alma mater, the all-boys Harrow School.

“…never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”

I’d always abridged the real power of the speech to simply mean that one should never give up in whatever pursuit he or she may be after. It’s always handy for a halftime speech when you’re down by 15. The real beauty and wisdom of the statement, however, is found in the last eight words of the message.

Sir Winston realized that unrelenting determination is for naught if the cause is not just or rational. The goals of imperial Japan and Nazi Germany would have been justified in the dogged pursuit of their maniacal leaders’ ambitions, if the goal were simply to never give up, no matter what. Such a quest is rather elementary. But to have the acumen to steadfastly fight on but give in only to convictions of honor and good sense takes genuine fortitude and wisdom.

There’s little sense in riding a crazy horse off a cliff while the wife and kids need you at 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

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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