Current Progressive Cattle digital edition

Across the fence: Loving the boundaries we have

Marci Whitehurst for Progressive Cattleman Published on 03 November 2017

We've all seen it: A cow sticking her head through the fence to get a bite of that luscious green on the other side, or a horse tilting his head sideways through the rails to munch slightly beyond his reach. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. It's true in the pasture; it's true in us.

horse head through fence

I know, I know. No one really wants to admit it, yet we are all susceptible. We might not be so obvious. It usually starts with, "Man, my fence could use some work." Pretty soon our eyes wander. "Yeah, my fence would be that tight too if I could afford to hire to get it done."

Or maybe it sounds more like this:

  • My field would be plowed by now if I had a new tractor.
  • Hot dog! Look at that new truck! That shiny bumper doesn't have a dent in it. Why, it probably gets better gas mileage than mine.
  • If my family had homesteaded here a hundred years ago, I'd have it that good too.
  • They have no idea what it's like working in town to support this ranch!
  • Must be nice to have a job to support the place – try making it work like we do.

Sure, I've done my fair share of gazing over the fences. The problem with that is when my eyes are outside my boundary, what's inside that boundary goes to pot. The weeds sneak in a little thicker and I fail to see the goodness in what I have.

Not only that, but the reality is that we are good friends with our neighbors. I want them to do well. One of my favorite things about agriculture is the "family" of people in the industry and the camaraderie in our endeavors. We love helping each other gather or brand. This summer when much of our area was on fire, we were all at the ready to help if a fire broke out. We have states shipping hay to each other for fire victims.

When one of us succeeds in agriculture, it is a victory for the industry. Usually when there is success, there is more than one person behind it anyway. We want our neighbors to be profitable and their cattle to be healthy. Good calf prices for one producer often mean good prices for another.

Granted, we are each responsible to care for what we have and hopefully we do it well. But we are also responsible for our thoughts. Those old sayings about being happy with what you have and doing the best with what you've been given must mean that I'm old because they sound pretty good to me. I guess I can't do my best, though, if I'm drooling over someone else's blessings.

How do we stop tempting thoughts when they come? Well, we must have different thoughts ready to replace it. "If we'd had the whole family working together like that, we'd have built an empire," can now become, "I sure am thankful for the people in my life."

None of us really know what's happening inside someone else's fences anyway. We only know what's happening in our own. Instead of comparing, we can say, "I'm thankful I have a few more calves to sell than last year." Switching from comparison to thankfulness adjusts my perspective, which helps everything look a little rosier.

Life is a journey though. Here's the thought I really struggled with: "If I was a wealthy and out-of-state land owner, I'd be able to build that fancy arena and not worry so much about the calf crop." Finding a replacement for that one was harder. Let's see, "I'm thankful I don't have so much money." Nope. Not it. "I'm thankful I don't have to travel all over deciding which ranch to buy." Definitely not it. "I'm thankful I'm not driving up prices for the little guy." Ouch. These aren't helping at all! I'll stick with, "I'm thankful that I have a fence and for everything inside it."  end mark

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

PHOTO: It's only natural to have a nose for greener grass than what's on our side of the fence. Photo by Marci Whitehurst.