Monday, January 16, 2012

The danger of being a Dad and kid labor

Here I am again and using this new blogger interface that has some features I like but I am still not quite used to it. I do enjoy being able to post pictures throughout the blog so for now I am staying with it. 

I am going to focus tonight about being a dad and the joys of being a dad along with some of the struggles. I would submit to you that being a dad is the best thing in life but also probably one of the most difficult. I enjoyed a day with my youngest Dakota today as she was home for the Martin Luther King holiday. I really enjoy these days as we get a chance to not only work together but we also get a chance to actually talk and learn from each other. Having a kid that shares your passion for the cattle business and Mother Nature really makes a day like today special. The Department of Labor is currently considering rules related to kids working in agriculture. Their concern is in my opinion a solution looking for a problem. Are there dangers present on a farm or ranch? Certainly, the danger that a kid might not sit home all day playing the Wii or chatting online with the masses about what some celebrity wore to the Golden Globes or worse chat with some online predator.

Life is a balance, keeping your child locked up from the realities of the real world wont prepare them very well for functioning in the real world. At the same time, teaching them things like personal responsibility, a work ethic, how to deal with problems, and that Hollywood is NOT the center of the universe are all excellent ideas. I guess because of my own upbringing I have always felt that if I can even eek out a basic living in agriculture it was far superior to having lots of money and not having the ability to spend time both working and playing with my kids. I think what the urban public fails to remember as far as kids working in agriculture it comes down to 2 simple things.

First, as a parent I would never knowingly expose my kids or the child of anyone else to something that was really dangerous. I know for many of you in the cities allowing your kids to work around large animals is something you view as a huge danger. Dangerous as compared to riding in an automobile? dangerous as to attending a school? dangerous as compared to living in a city? Many people don't think of things from a realistic risk standpoint. I would be willing to bet that far more people die in car accidents from driving to purchase a lottery ticket than people who actually win the lottery. Due diligence is needed but as a nation we tend to get caught up in the drama of headlines and forget reality in many instances in my opinion. Does my child look like she is in imminent danger as this vicious Brahma cross heifer (she has her own blog post in the future) named either Annabelle or Margie (depending if you ask Dakota or Samantha) as she eats Triticale hay? What about those replacement heifers and fair steers in the background, they could be plotting a huge stampede conspiracy to attack and eat the guy holding the camera. I am lucky I am even here to post this!

The second argument that really makes my blood boil is the idea that somehow kids in agriculture are just being used for cheap labor and denied a chance to actually learn something. I am going to give you just a few examples of the education that Dakota was able to experience today. We discussed the protein level of different hay and protein supplements and the cost relative to what a pregnant cow needs and did the related math as to which was the most cost effective. As we chopped ice from water tanks we discussed what state or country the outline of some of the pieces of ice most resembled. This led to a larger discussion about state capitals and other geographical and political discussions. As we fed the fall calving cows we discussed gestation length and if a cow was bred today when she would be expected to have a calf. Here are a few of our fall calves that were born in August and September as they follow the pickup looking for hay. As you can see there is one calf with a white hide and this allowed us a discussion about skin color, MLK and the civil rights movement and the opportunities in this country.

We also discussed her upcoming semester finals, grades and future. Part of this discussion was about her family past and how life progresses. We seldom are able to discuss these things without connecting the history of the ranch and those that ran it before we did. This is not to say my kids do not enjoy other activities in life that can contribute to their growth and understanding of the world. Yesterday Dakota spent the day playing in a volleyball tournament. There are great lessons here as well, such as striving for excellence, working as a team, and the joys of success as well as the reality that you are not always going to "win". I know from my standpoint I learned something yesterday as a dad. I do not fret finances, feed resources, etc while I spend time watching her play sports. How could you think of those things as you wait for #8 prepare to slap an awesome serve just over the net? 

I am a very lucky man, all three of my girls have been great kids and they all enjoy the great looks and other female attributes of their mother while at the same time having all the views of a realist that was put into them by some guy lucky enough to be part of their lives.I just found out last week that I am going to be a father in law sometime next winter. I am excited about this news and at the same time nervous, apprehensive and protective thoughts run through my mind like whole corn runs through a 5 weight calf fresh off grass. I want to wish Amanda and Kenneth all the luck and good blessings in the world. I am not sure how in the hell I got to be old enough to be a father in law but I am sure this cow on the fence never thought she would do anything but eat grass, raise calves and live forever here on Coyan Road USA. 

 I know a few things I have learned over my years of being a dad.I would not trade any amount of money in the world for  the joy of being a part of three young ladies lives and the opportunity to teach then how to work, how to love and respect mother nature and how to remember that worry is often just a down payment on something that will never happen.Things have a way of working out in the end, like a son in law that is a hay grower; ).

Today's real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Snowy Owl aka Bubo scandicus which Dakota and I were able to witness today. To which she initially said, "Oh boy dad, you can cross it off your geeky bird list". After a little glimpse through the binoculars and some discussion about the rarity she admitted it was "pretty cool". I know, I am a cool dad with a Twitter account, email and a blog and that leads into today's YouTube music selection by Rodney Atkins.Enjoy boys and remember, this crazy old man was once a young boy and you know from the Department of Labor just how dangerous it can be working around a farm or ranch. Remember all pictures can be viewed full size by clicking on them. Tomorrow is a long day and I am already looking forward to sharing a post about my day!