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Irons in the fire: Nowhere but here

Paul Marchant for Progressive Cattleman Published on 24 December 2015

Three or four years ago, in an effort to keep up with the world and keep an eye on my kids, I took a bold leap and entered the modern world when I got my own Facebook page. It took some tutoring, and I had to endure a fair amount of ridicule and impatience from my kids, but I eventually learned my way around the rage of the social media world.

As a member of the county fair board, I even developed and sort of learned to manage a Facebook page for the county fair. No doubt, I’ve wasted more than my share of time peeking into the lives of a few hundred of my friends every day or so.

From the picture of the bratwurst that Max ate on his visit to Lambeau Field to video of the third-grade gymnastics recital and everything in between and beyond, Facebook and the plethora of other social media outlets allow anyone and everyone to opine and share their varied views of the world.

Since most of my social media friends run in the same circles, I see a lot of the same things and recurring themes from many similar but slightly varied angles. This is no surprise as friends, by the very definition of the word, are generally like-minded.

One of the things that seems to pop up on a regular basis is the “nowhere but here” theme. For instance, every year when the Matthews boys trail their cattle through town, on the way to their summer range, there will be 15 or 20 pictures running across my Facebook page, captioned with declarations that surely this is the only place left on earth where a herd of cows can be seen sauntering past the post office and the elementary school.

I often hear similar things, either extolling the good or decrying the negative, from folks who have transplanted themselves in our secluded community from places like southern California, Seattle or Utah’s crowded Wasatch Front.

Even many of the lifers, who have spent their entire lives to this point within 30 miles of their birthplace, drink the “only here” Kool-Aid. While I can’t argue that my hometown has its own brand of uniqueness, I’ve discovered in my limited travels that we may not be quite as unique and exclusive as we like to think.

There are folks in Twin Bridges, Judith Gap, Escalante or Ecru who feel the same way we do in Oakley. The flat plains around Quinter are not the only acres where corn and wheat can grow. From Eureka to Tonopah and Orland to Terrebonne, cowboys are plying their trade, delinquents are smashing headlights and neighbors are breaking bread with each other.

Just like not every crooked politician comes from Chicago, not every saint resides in St. Ignatius. This may shock some gentle readers, but I’ve even discovered there are good people who don’t attend the same church as they do – or who may not even attend church at all.

On the other side of that coin, there may be a reprobate seated in the pew on the other side of the chapel. I even have some friends who are (gasp) Democrats.

My point is not to disparage the gentle and commendable naivete of those who notice and appreciate the goodness in their own communities, nor is it to invoke the sinister notion that creeps and criminals have permeated every peaceful hamlet and ranch town in the country. My intent is to show that, generally, in the context of one’s mental state of happiness or gloominess, you can usually find what you are looking for.

I guarantee I can always find a gate that isn’t shut right, a broken wire, a bridle that is hanging backwards in the tack shed or dirt on the kitchen floor. My wife always tells me that my boys occasionally need to hear about something they’ve done right. In the heat of the battle, I counter that if anything was ever done right, I’d love to tell them about it.

Sometimes it takes more effort than I’m willing to give to seek out the positive. On the rare occasions that I have forced myself to take a breath and hold my tongue, the cows have sorted easier, the baler still got fixed, and the tire still got changed. And everyone was a little more pleasant at the end of the day.

As the world gets smaller and our problems get bigger, it’s always good to realize that there probably is some good to be had, no matter where you may be.  end mark