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Irons in the fire: Balancing act

Paul Marchant for Progressive Forage Published on 30 April 2021

A few years ago, I was asked to tag along on a trail ride in the great Owyhee country of southwestern Idaho with a few dozen state, county and federal officials and several distinguished members of the hierarchy of the Western cattle industry.

Difficult as it may be for you to believe, my job was not to impart any wisdom or share any of my advice or opinions – rather, I was there to document the excursion and ensuing discussions in picture and prose. So with a nice camera in hand (a good digital Canon can make any idiot into a decent photographer) and a notebook and pen in my pocket, I saddled up my little brown mare, along with a couple of my ponies I deemed trustworthy enough to babysit some visiting dudes in attendance, and tagged along with the governor and various dignitaries and luminaries from Boise, D.C. and Bruneau (the jewel of Owyhee County). It was a neat little gig. Although I already knew a good share of the cowboy dignitaries involved, it was fun to kind of have carte blanche to mingle as I chose among some of the movers and shakers of the Western cattle industry and the state and national public lands scene.

Near the end of the two-hour ride, I wanted to get a picture of the whole posse in all their glory. As best I could, I lined up all the “riders of Rohan” (that’s a nod to any Lord of the Rings nerds) at the bottom of a draw as I trotted back up the hill about 50 yards so I could get every last one of them in the picture frame. I had the macate rein of my hackamore setup tucked in my belt as I jumped up on the edge of a big old 300-gallon water tank to gain the best vantage point to snap the picture. It was a balancing act that had the true makings of a potentially hilarious, if not disastrous, outcome.

It was, of course, at this moment my horse abruptly sidestepped two yards to her right as she suddenly decided her life was in peril on account of the big white rock lurking silently and ominously 10 feet away. As I was jerked from my precarious perch, I miraculously was able to avoid a dunking in the trough as I ever-so-nimbly (in my mind, at least) leapt back away from the water and landed on my can beside my now-calmed horse as she lowered her head, perked her ears forward and sniffed at my hat as if to ask in embarrassment, “What in the world are you doing, you dork? We’ve got an important audience here.”

In case you’re wondering: Yes, after I dusted off my pockets and my pride, I was finally able to get a couple pictures that were at least a little better than not too bad.

The point of this little tale is not an attempt to sway your opinion of me as I drop a well-known name here and there (though you’re free to be impressed, if that sort of thing inspires you). I think the thing I learned is that balance can be a delicate thing, difficult to attain and harder still to maintain.

One of my weaknesses is that I’m a hopeless sports fan. I know. It makes no sense that I think any amount of my happiness should be derived from the outcome of games played by people with whom I have absolutely no personal connection. I should probably seek professional help, but so far, I think I’ve been able to control my addiction with an occasional therapeutic dose of real life.

That being as it may, I’ve taken a keen interest in this year’s NFL draft, mostly because my alma mater finally had a pretty good season last year and several players figure to play prominent roles in the draft this year. Most interesting to me has been the ascension of a young quarterback and the path he took to get where he is now, on the cusp of international renown and stupid crazy riches. As I’ve studied his story, I’ve been amazed at how he’s been able to focus on his goals with laser-like intensity. He’s realized that to accomplish his lofty goals, he’d have to make serious sacrifices. He’s somehow been able to reconcile what he can do or, more accurately stated, what he’s capable of with what he should do and what he wants to do. Those lines don’t always intersect, at least not when, how and where you’d like them to.

Often, for anyone, not just world-class athletes, the “want to” has to be sacrificed for the “should do.” Or the “can do” or “should do” gets sabotaged by the “want to.” The beauty of life is that failure need not be permanent. Though that ever-elusive balance may be easily knocked off-kilter, you can still pick yourself up and rebalance. As I get older and wiser and fatter, I’ve come to figure out that I sometimes have to shift my position, my thinking or my priorities to keep everything in balance. And if I fall, I can pick up my camera, get on my horse and start all over again.  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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