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Irons in the fire: Delayed rewards

Paul Marchant for Progressive Cattle Published on 24 September 2020

It was a moment I was simultaneously dreading and eagerly anticipating, kind of like the first time you climbed up on that sweet linebred Hancock colt you sent to the trainer for 60 days.

You had a lot invested in the deal, and you felt good about both the hotshot young trainer and the stout little gelding, but you never know for sure how these deals will turn out. In this particular case, it wasn’t the moment or my preparation I feared, it was the emotion generated by the collision of the two that sent my heart into my throat.

The occasion was the dinner taking place after the wedding ceremony of my youngest son. My assignment was to take a few minutes to share my thoughts on my son, his life up to that point and his potential future with the newest Mrs. Marchant. The juncture of preparation, emotion and action can be an intimidating spot. I’d thought about what to say for several weeks. The content wasn’t a problem. I had that all figured out. The potential vexation that troubled me was that each time I thought about the sentences and phrases I’d planned to use, the script became much more than just words in my mind. Always, with the thoughts accompanying the simple terminology, came the tears. And with the tears came the inability to speak in a voice that didn’t resemble a loose belt on a ’93 Chevy pickup. I knew I’d embarrass myself.

As far as squeeze-your-heart, raw emotion, it may not be quite as bad as a father-daughter dance to “I Loved Her First,” but by its nature and audio requirements, it’s a more public display. I’m sure I’m not the first ranch dad to be head-slapped by the realization that the only thing which really equals the aggravation that comes with kids who won’t get out of bed or who forget to feed the horses is the honest, raw affection you feel for them when they get it all right. In my experience so far, the laugh of a grandbaby is the only thing that comes close to matching the union of your own kid with the one who makes him happier than you knew he could be. Plus, it’s nice to hand the feed bill off to someone else.

Anyway, I somehow stumbled through my five-minute speech, which after the delays on account of my emotion-induced allergies, lasted a good 10 minutes. I touched on some of the events and milestones that shaped my son’s life and brought him to the place he now stood. From his first horse wreck when he was 4 to his struggles with the Fort Jackson summer heat during basic training and a quote or two from Proverbs and our favorite movie, The Cowboys, it was all much harder for me to say than it is to write. But it was all good, and in the end, it turned out no worse than I’d expected.

Such times and events tend to put a guy in a reflective mood. And the next morning after my brother-in-law and nephew helped me cuss our way through a minor truck repair fiasco, I reflected on why we do what we do. When my kids were little, they always wanted to play cowboy whenever their dad did. When my youngest was just 4 years old, he’d spend all day on the mountain moving cows and still want to go again the next day. When he was a teenager, the zeal for the work had waned, but he did it anyway, though it was often under some sort of compulsion from his battle-weary parents.

I think that’s kind of how it is raising a family or nurturing any worthwhile relationship. It’s easy to be in love with your hot new wife on the honeymoon or to love a perfect, adorable little baby. It’s another thing entirely to fight your way through a ninth-grade algebra homework assignment with an obstinate freshman, figure out how to make a land payment when five-weight calves can’t even bring a dollar or even learn to love through infidelity or addiction.

Love without an agenda ain’t easy. When the reciprocation or the payment isn’t even on the distant horizon, it takes a special kind of strength to persevere. I think, though, that love is its own reward. Somehow, if you focus on what you put into it instead of what you may get out of it, in the end what you actually get out of it will be worth a thousandfold what your heart put into it.  end mark

Paul Marchant is a cowboy and part-time freelance writer based in southern Idaho. Follow him on Twitter, or email Paul Marchant.

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