Wednesday, February 3, 2010

but it's a beautiful ride

My post for today will not make much sense unless you read yesterdays post prior to this one. As I grew up in agriculture and especially in the cattle business I learned that life is not always perfect. I also have learned to deal with loss, death and the disappointments that sometimes come with working hand and hand with Mother Nature. As I drove to Spokane yesterday I tried to imagine my Dad riding in the passenger seat and what he would have said to me to make me feel better about what had transpired earlier that morning.

My Dad, like myself was never just ok with losing an animal or other setback that you sometimes face. He was better at dealing with it and seeing the bright side of things than I am. I guess maybe it was because of experience because I know I have gotten better at accepting life as it comes than I used to be able to. I mentioned yesterday that Dad could always make me feel better when I was struggling with these issues and it is on those types of days I miss him most. This may sound stupid to some but if I really try I can get myself to a place where he is there with me even if his physical presence is no longer here. We still talk, laugh and sometimes even argue about certain things. He is still grumbling about the price I paid for the last bull I purchased.

As I headed to Spokane I put a CD in that my youngest sister gave to me at Christmas. It is of songs that remind her of dad and she did a spectacular job of capturing who he was in the collection on the CD. I already said yesterday that I know the first thing my Dad would have said to me about losing the calf. He would have said, “Son you can’t save them all” he would have also added something like, “If it was an easy thing to do and every calf lived any common idiot could make a living in the cattle business.” Things like that would make me feel better and make me a bit more thankful for what I do. I mean just think of Barack Obama out there in the corn field with his arms shoulder deep in a cow’s vagina. I feel better already.

A few years ago I had a group of first calf heifers to calve out that I had purchased. I had bought these girls at auction without much thought or concern about how they had been bred and to what type of bulls because I was still young and invincible in my small mind. The whole experience and reflection on it made me think of one of Dads gems. He used to say, “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of experience comes from bad judgment.” I survived that bad judgment experience but I did have to pull many calves and lost a higher percentage than a more experience man would have.

One day he stopped by as I was cussing and kicking the ground and generally tossing things after losing another calf. Dad climbed out of the pickup and said, “Whoa there junior, what the hell?” I then went on a tirade about how life sucked in general, how I hated cows and how stupid I was for buying the heifers. Dad did not often demand much from anyone but this was an instance he did as he told me to get in the pickup, sit down, shut up and listen to him for a few minutes. He told me not to speak unless I was asked a question, I grudgingly complied. The first thing he asked was for me to think for a minute and then tell him the best part of being in the cattle business. Knowing he was serious I said something basically to the effect of seeing Mother Nature work, new life beginning whether it is a calf or new spring grass or a new hatch of wild ducklings. I also added sarcastically that there did not seem to be much new life springing eternal lately in my heifer project besides increased debt. Reflecting back I think he kind of set me up knowing what my answer would be because of what he said in response.

Dad said, “So the best part is seeing new life, basically the living and breathing of nature, is that correct?” I answered in the affirmative then he gave me the best advice I think I have ever received. He said, “Son that IS the best part of this life, but you will do well to remember something. There is nothing that lives and breathes that does not eventually die and rot. Until you come to peace with that, you will struggle.” I do not expect to ever embrace that totally but it did make me see yesterday in a different light.

What if I had not seen the cow before I left? Likely I would have found her dead today, then how would I have felt. What if I was some far out animal rights person and instead of helping the cow and trying to save the calf I would have twisted the situation into something for political gain? What if I was in corporate America and never had the chance to see the many instances of new life beginning compared to the few times that things do not work out well? What if I did not have the skills, experience and determination it took to try and save that calf? What about the times the same situation had resulted in a live calf that only existed because of the hand I had given to Mother Nature?

When I got to the field today the cow was up and walking. Somewhat unsteady but she certainly is going to make it and who knows, I may have a live set of twins over the next few days and she can be an adoptive mother. As Gary Allan sings so perfectly, “Life Ain’t always beautiful, but it’s a beautiful ride.” Thanks for riding with me to Spokane yesterday and helping me with this Dad, I am going to be ok.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is Perennial ryegrass aka Lolium perenne.

Today’s picture is of calf 0157w, one of 7 calves born alive in the last two days without any assistance.