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Across the Fence: An honest look at cowboy lawn care

Marci Whitehurst for Progressive Cattleman Published on 09 August 2018

Summer is a time when other professions take vacations, but universally, it's also the season of backyard barbeques – which means yard work.

Here's the deal with yard work to a cowboy: What's the point?

A cowboy spends his life providing grass for cows to eat. Grass is a commodity, a resource. It is not something you trim around your house to make it look nice.

A cowboy will brag about good grass to everyone he meets. He will work hard for luscious grass – as long as it is in a pasture.

However, there are times when my hubby is suddenly interested in making the lawn grow. I've learned to be cautious:

If he says, "Honey, want me to fertilize the grass for you?" I no longer think this is a romantic gesture to help with the lawn. What he means is, "Honey, I have a giant pile of manure that needs to go somewhere."

If he says, "Would you like me to water the lawn?" it means the indoor bathroom is occupied.

Perhaps he says, "I got you a lawn ornament." This means he has a project that probably won't ever get finished – like an old truck or tractor – and needs room in the shop.

Recently my cowboy said, "I have the perfect solution to yard work!" and then ran to the barn, and I knew I was in trouble.

"There's no reason we can't just graze our lawn like a pasture." If I hadn't objected, a couple temporary posts and a string of hot wire later, project "annihilate the lawn" would've been underway.

A couple of summers ago, I woke up before the sun to a clomping noise on my porch. I didn't place the sound right away until I heard a bleat. I walked to the door to see sheep parading on my porch, through the lawn, and munching every flower I had planted.

Yard work is very subjective when you own livestock.

Livestock's favorite place to go if someone forgets to close a gate, or the gate gets rubbed open, is the ranch lawn. The grass is not only greener on the other side of the fence, but apparently it tastes better too. It almost always happens right after a good rain or the sprinklers have saturated the yard, so every hoofprint is easily seen like an unsolvable maze in a child's magazine. I'm pretty sure they squeeze out every last drop of poo before they exit the lawn too. Perhaps they even laugh about the party they had at our place once they are back in the pasture.

The honest truth, though, is this: Cowboys don't always notice. Oh, they notice the animals, but the "aftereffects" are often invisible to them.

Nevertheless, there is yard work to be done. The meaning of yard work varies, depending on the cowboy, but I've learned not to cringe when he says he's going to help me out and "mow" with the tractor. I just hide the keys. And he knows it's too expensive and damaging to hit the lawn with a pivot. But I am still concerned when he mentions weed eating. He bought a weed trimmer that'll cut down an H-brace with one swipe. I'm lucky we still have trees.  end mark

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

Marci Whitehurst
  • Marci Whitehurst

  • Cattle Producer
  • Montana

PHOTO: It looks like the garden party is just beginning for these sheep at the Whitehurst ranch. Photo by Marci Whitehurst.