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Irons in the fire: The farmers may not be so bad

Paul Marchant Published on 23 October 2015

At the Marchant outfit, we’re not really the best farmers in the world. In spite of our botanical shortcomings, though, we try hard and we love what we do, even if we’re only mediocre cowboys.

Because we’re astute enough to recognize our weaknesses, we found a fairly decent solution to our lack of agronomic genius. We rent a good share of our farmground to the Cranneys, one of the big local farm families. They know what they’re doing, and they make it look like we know what we’re doing. It’s mostly a wonderful situation. There are, however, a couple of drawbacks.

As we loaded the horses in the trailer, just at sunrise a couple of weeks ago, and headed out to go fetch the half-dozen wayward heifers that had trailed off the mountain, I noticed a cloud of dust rising up from the field just north of the home place.

I was none too pleased with that dust cloud – because I knew what it meant. It meant the farmers were disking up a couple weeks’ worth of fall feed that I was hoping to have for the cows we were just starting to gather off of the mountain.

It seems to happen every year. After the grain harvest, with a little luck and a touch of rain, a nice little crop of volunteer grain will sprout up. It makes for really nice fall feed – if we can beat the farmers to it.

The farmers were smack in the middle of spud harvest, so I’d hoped that they were too busy and wouldn’t be able to spare a tractor or driver to rip up the grain fields until after the potato and sugar beet harvest was over. That volunteer grain is perfect to hold the cows over for a couple of weeks after they come off the mountain. But the farmers beat me to it again.

As I sulked over my bad fortune, my irascibility seemed to snowball. I started contemplating the ineptitude of the government. Why in the world can’t we leave the cows on the mountain for a couple more weeks?

With the nice, wet summer we had, there’s plenty of feed. But noooo … the Forest Service brain trust insists that the cattle come off of the king’s forest by Oct. 10 – because that’s what the “grazing plan” calls for.

One negative thought led to another. If I could just leave the cows on the summer range a little longer, I wouldn’t have to feed as much hay. If I didn’t have to spend so much time feeding, I’d be able to spend more time working with that green colt. If I had worked more with that colt, I’d have been able to turn that rank cow before she got by me and jumped over four rails of the six-rail fence.

If I hadn’t had to go fetch some pine poles to repair the fence with the old sprinkler pipe trailer, I wouldn’t have run over the dog with the pipe trailer as he chased after the stupid cat that had climbed through the open pickup window and made a mess of my lunch. If I hadn’t killed the good old dog, I wouldn’t have this stupid dog that is always in the gate at the wrong time.

If I didn’t have this stupid dog, I wouldn’t have to cuss so much. If I didn’t have to cuss so much, the trajectory of my descent down the pathway to somewhere other than heaven wouldn’t be quite so steep. If I wasn’t so worried about my eternal well-being and eventual destination, I could concentrate more on doing good and solving world hunger.

See what those farmers are doing? They’re making the poor little children in developing countries go without supper. There is no hope in the world.

But wait! Somewhere in the midst of my downward spiral into the abyss of negativity, I caught a glimpse of hope. Those folks who lease our farmground are some of the best people you’ll ever meet. Besides making it appear that we know how to farm, they are the kind of people who go about the business of doing good like nobody’s business.

They are generous to a fault and support every community cause from the high school booster club to the county fair stock sale. From what I know of them, they probably give $2 that nobody knows about for every $1 that the public sees. When you’re talking salt-of-the-earth, these folks aren’t a little pinch on your fries; they’re a 50-pound block of trace-mineralized goodness.

As I held onto that thought, and my blood pressure leveled off, I could gain a little hope again. Maybe the world isn’t a lost cause.

Can it be that Samoset and William Bradford got something right, something that can outlast this 21st century of political insanity, suicide bombers and school shooters? This Thanksgiving, I have to believe so. As long as there are people like the Cranneys, I have to believe so.  end mark

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