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Across the fence: Gratitude on Independence Day

Marci Whitehurst for Progressive Cattle Published on 24 June 2019

The Fourth of July traditionally means fireworks, barbecues and rodeos – and maybe crazy Uncle Joe saying, “Hey, watch this …” or “Don’t you think we could barbecue Oreos?” Someone will likely be caught saying, “Remember the year that …” and it usually ends with hysterics.

Certainly a day of fun, but it’s also a day of thanksgiving.

We usually reserve our focus on thankfulness for November with our turkey, but the two go hand in hand.

Can you imagine what it must have felt like to be a part of establishing a new country? My first thoughts go to the thrill, the passion and the drive necessary to start a country separate from the king of England. However, it’s hard to ignore the death, the frustration and the loss that paralleled their desires. Yet, there was a catalyst: Surrender to England’s demands … or fight and start something new. So many chose something new.

It makes me realize how many times I grumble about tough situations that happen to me or my family and friends. Why is the go-to question. Why is this happening? Often we can’t change our circumstances, but we can change our response. Commonly, we tough it out, we complain, we get angry – but do we ever stop to think the things that frustrate us could be catalysts for change? If we are comfortable, we aren’t motivated to change or look for better ways.

England wanted to control it all, but the folks who did the work said, “I don’t think so. We’ve worked for this. We want it to be done differently than England.”

Agriculture presents similar battles. There are external ones: How many groups come against agriculture claiming our cows are ruining the atmosphere? Then there are the internal battles as well: How many times do we get frustrated doing something that doesn’t work, yet we keep trying to do it the same way because that’s how it’s always been done? It’s funny how tradition gets passed down and generations keep doing it because they think they should. Without question, there is wisdom in what has been done before. However, wisdom is also found in creative solutions, new thought patterns and innovation.

It reminds me of a story where a woman was teaching her daughter how to prepare ham for a large family dinner. She told her daughter to cut the ends off the ham, put it in the pan and cook it low and slow.

“Why cut the ends off the ham?” her daughter asked.

The mother thought and said, “I don’t know; that’s how my mom’s always done it. It must make it taste better.” It got the mom to thinking though, and she asked her mom. Her mom didn’t know but, fortunately, the great-grandma was available, so she was asked why the ends of the ham were cut off. The reply?

“Honey, the hams we raised were always too large to fit any of the pans we had. We cut the ends off to make it fit the pan.”

The women chuckled but realized the hams they were purchasing would fit the pans just fine, so they quit cutting the ends off.

As kids, we are often taught to not question anything we are told, but perhaps we should welcome some questions. Why are we doing the things we are doing? Are the obstacles we are facing bringing opportunities for change?

I asked a friend of mine why he chose agriculture as an occupation and he said, “I don’t know what else I would do.”

I’ve felt this way about my life as well. On the good days, it means that I enjoy my life, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. On the bad days, it means I feel trapped. If we look at our heritage though, feeling trapped may not be a reason to feel down and out. Maybe it’s an opportunity, like the Founding Fathers had, to do something new.

We probably aren’t going to start a new country, but maybe instead of being stuck we can look for the momentum behind our frustrations to propel a new idea or a new way of doing things.

Maybe we can get sheep or goats to help with weed control.

Perhaps there are a few head we can cull to make our lives easier.

Could it be that our land could be used differently or more diversely?

Like those that founded our country, whatever resources we have – or don’t have – may be exactly the push we need into new possibilities. Whatever fight we engage in to gain something new could be the very thing our children or grandchildren are thankful we pursued.

Thank you to the trailblazers, independent thinkers, and those who gave in order for us to live freely. Let’s enjoy our barbecues, fireworks and even crazy Uncle Joe. Happy Independence Day! end mark

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