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A secret to longevity

Marci Whitehurst for Progressive Cattleman Published on 27 January 2017
Working on the shed roof

Recent news articles and talk shows have discussed the issue of upcoming generations being overwhelmed by difficulty or challenge. One thought behind this is that kids these days have it “too easy.”

While there are other circles that can also relate, I'm quite certain that ag families don't have to worry about having it “too easy.” Opportunity for adversity abounds with cattle producers:

  • The cows get out when you're running late for a function in town.
  • A pipe “blows” on the irrigation line and you have to fix it immediately so that gallons upon gallons of water are not spewing like a mini Old Faithful onto the road. Not to mention all that water isn't going on the hayfield.
  • You get a flat tire. Going uphill. With a loaded stock trailer.
  • The tractor battery is found dead. No worries – it's only blizzarding and there's a semi load of cake arriving shortly.
  • You get a concussion from opening a gate because someone in the family stretched the gate with the force of the Incredible Hulk.
  • The truck gets stuck in the hayfield, when the other truck is out of town. You must humble yourself and call a neighbor to get you unstuck, from a mud hole in the middle of an open field that you thought you “missed.”
  • The right-hand man – err – dog passed away suddenly.
  • A cow that looked fantastic going through the sale ring (buyer number up!) is dead days later.

Then there are the big picture things:

  • The cattle market is significantly lower this year than last year. Do you hold back calves or just take what you get?
  • The fluctuations in oil prices, grain commodities and sales are enough to keep you aware of adversity.
  • Weather is constantly changing, and although forecasting helps, it doesn't tell us how many heifers will calve during that spring snowstorm. It doesn't alert us to where those high winds will carry all that snow. (This year it happened to be in front of our main gate.) It also fails to prepare us for how long the summer drought will last, what fields the hail will hammer, or how fast a fire will spread.

No matter how big or small our cattle operation, feedlot, dairy, farm, etc., I've never heard of any of us being in short supply of adversity in the agricultural arena. The temptation towards frustration, anger and worry can quickly pull a person down. I've been there. Yet, perhaps there is a better way. If we agree with the adage that adversity breeds strength, both mental and physical, then all these challenging circumstances coupled with various unknowns may actually be good for us. (Yes, it was painful to type that.)

  • It boosts our creativity – “How will I fix this in a pinch?”
  • It hones in all our resources – “Maybe I should sell that trailer I never use and buy a couple cows while the market is lower.”
  • It bonds us – Let's face it, no one likes hearing stories from Mr. Nothing-Ever-Goes-Wrong, but we hoot and holler with recognition when Mr. I-Was-Embarrassed-When tells a true tale.

I guess since none of us are immune to adversity, we might as well look for the positives it brings. At the very least, adversity staves off boredom. We will know how to rise above difficulty – and I'm sure we're sharing this skill with our children. While it sure is hard to be thankful for mishaps, perhaps being thankful for the will, desire and creativity to overcome them will help our focus.

While we all have things to be thankful for, none of us have it “easy.” So as much as my fingers are stalling to type it, adversity is a hidden secret to longevity because it breeds perseverance. Another plus – it's something that is widely accessible!  end mark

Marci Whitehurst is a freelance writer, ranch wife and the mother of three children. You can follow her on her blog.

PHOTO: My hubby taking a breather after trouble on the roofing job. (I did help, but like a good wife, I took a picture first.) Photo by Marci Whitehurst.