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Irons in the fire: Thanks for the bad times

Paul Marchant for Progressive Cattle Published on 25 October 2021

What a peculiar lot we are. It’s true I generally agree with our boast that the people who are the brains and guts and muscle of modern North American agriculture are quite possibly the most creative, efficient, industrious, hard-working people God has placed on this earth.

I might be so bold as to say the facts bear out that claim. What we’re doing to feed and clothe the teeming masses amid a constant barrage of criticism and opposition is, in a word, miraculous. Our abilities may even be undersold, probably a lot undersold. With that understanding, we can hardly be blamed for our often surly, independent, defiant attitudes and our bowed backs and stiff necks.

We’re all pretty eager for that pat on the back. There is no shortage of blogs and social media posts within the ag information world, all confidently and defiantly taking on all comers who dare criticize or even misunderstand or misinterpret our efforts and noble intentions. And most of us are always eager to jump on whatever bandwagon carries the loudest trumpet because our wagon, no matter how loud the band, will almost always be significantly smaller than the ones carrying the opposition.

I’m going to take a stand on a different rock, one from which I’ve really never stood and gazed down before. I think, too often, our pride and arrogance – no matter how justified they may be – cloud our vision and the view we really need to be taking in. The summit of the rock of humility is a tough place to find, and the trail is always steep and narrow. Probably what makes it so difficult to find is: You have to look inward to find it. No matter how sharp your eyes may be, it’s rarely found on the horizon. It’s often in the mirror.

I was addressing a group of high school ag students a while ago, and I ended my remarks by emphatically declaring to them how lucky they were to be in the position they were. My comments seemed to be pretty well received, but in hindsight I believe my declaration wasn’t wholly correct. They, and all of us, are not merely lucky. We are blessed, abundantly so.

The reflection gave me cause to consider my blessings, and I came to realize a lot of blessings I hadn’t considered as such before. I’m not just talking about the usual stuff like a decent, simple home; a family who tolerates me; friends who support me; good horses; lovable dogs and a pickup that runs. What I’m talking about is some of the fodder of life which, on the surface, almost always appears to be a curse, nowhere in the vicinity of a blessing. You know, stuff you have to fight and dig and wade through just so you can catch a breath and take another swing.

Here’s a sampling from my meager collection:

  • I ran over my favorite dog with the pickup as he was helping me push some cows up the road. He was hurt and scared, and he gashed my leg and my hand as I picked him up to lay him in the pickup. I took him to my dad’s place, where he offered to finish the deed so I could be alone with my tears as I dug a grave behind my house.

  • Once, before the first cellphone was even a gleam in its mother’s eye, I ran a sagebrush stump through the sidewall of my pickup tire on the outer edge of nowhere in White Pine County, Nevada. I figured out how to change a tire with a hammer, a punch and lug wrench that didn’t fit.

  • I spent an entire freezing night repositioning a dead calf inside a heifer, only to have her prolapse and succumb to death herself at the end of the ordeal.

  • After nearly a decade, I lost what I thought was the best job I’d ever have.

  • My son got cut from the high school basketball team.

  • After an all-night fight with colic, the prettiest buckskin gelding I ever owned died with his head in my lap.

  • I spent two nights in jail for something I didn’t do.

  • I got taken to the cleaners on a bunch of cows by a friend I trusted.

  • I’ve watched my kids hurt for doing the right thing.

I could probably continue on with the list for days. I know it may sound silly, even cliché to classify misfortune as blessing, and I know my struggles are petty compared to many, but I think that’s the beauty of life that God intended for us. Out of sadness can spring joy; from tears, happiness and hope. And nowhere are those blessings more abundantly available than to those living a life of sacrifice to feed a hungry, needy, sometimes ungrateful world. So, take a shot to the chin, count your blessings and be thankful. 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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