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Irons in the fire: Home

Paul Marchant for Progressive Forage Published on 01 December 2020

Home to me is the early morning bang and echo of horseshoes on old trailer floorboards. It’s the half-eager, half-asleep complaint of the 8-year-old who can’t find his spurs as he clambers into the pickup.

Home is the after-dark smell of horse sweat on wet blankets and the joyful relief in an old pony’s groan as he rolls in the dirt at the end of a long day on the mountain.

Home is the constant, all-night droning of 300 freshly weaned calves in the pens right outside the bedroom window and the stab of angst in my heart when they break through the fence. It’s the heavy emptiness in the pit of my gut when the buzzards are hopping around some still, silent, lifeless black object in the bottom of the draw a quarter-mile away or the jump my heart feels as I watch an old mama cow or a first-time heifer as she nudges her newborn to stand up on its unstable, brand-new legs.

Home is dust in my eyes, grit in my teeth and the wind in my face; it’s the smell of diesel exhaust on a 20-below morning or new leather gloves at the start of a 3-mile fence. Home is the squeal of school bus brakes at 6:48 and the canine symphony of two heelers and a shag barking at the UPS man. It’s wire-cut colts and half-broke mares and the arrow-straight tailhead of my daughter’s last show steer.

Home is the squeak of sneakers at practice in the old gym and the conference championship in the new gym. It’s the late-night reliving of the 24-point, 10-assist game and the all-night tears of missing the cut. Home is the joy and the exasperation with a litter of new pups and the heartbreak of putting an old dog down. It’s an auctioneer’s chant and a Sunday morning sermon, a cat underfoot and storm clouds overhead.

Home is cold Halloween nights with a pile of sugar-high goblins, Thanksgiving with grandkids in Wyoming or a lonely couple’s first Christmas away from family on a remote, high-desert ranch in eastern Nevada. It’s disappointment and elation, sorrow and satisfaction, joy and heartbreak, comfort and irritation.

Home smells like fresh-cut hay and bone-dry sagebrush. Home is too much rain in May, too much sun in September and too much snow when I’m calving heifers. It’s a premium from the buyer of last year’s calves and a gut punch from the worn-out transmission in the old pickup. It’s the first call home from the son in the army and sitting up all night on the porch with the 3-year-old with croup. It’s fighting with kids to finish homework, feed the horses or shut the door and my pretending I wasn’t worried when they got home a half-hour late from the homecoming dance.

Home is early mornings and late payments, new bills on old trucks and broke-in saddles on half-broke horses, homegrown tomatoes on a cull-cow hamburger and late-night calls informing me the cows are out. Home is my wife leaving me stranded in the sorting pen when I cuss her for missing the bad-eyed cow but still fixing me a midnight supper after a late-night fair board meeting in town.

My home is loaded with imperfections, but the grandkids are still perfect, wherever they may be. It’s Christmas music in November, hymns on Sunday and country music in the truck.

Home has been eastern Nevada, central Utah and southern Idaho. Home is, has been and will probably always be a lot of different things. But home is where I belong. It’s more than a town or a house. It’s not just a place, at least it shouldn’t be just a place – not for me, not for anyone. Home should be where you want to be. Home should be where your heart feels best, even if it sometimes hurts.

So, as this chaotic year comes to a close, take some time to appreciate home, wherever and whatever it may be to you. Be calm. Be quiet. Listen to the stillness and turn your heart to Him. That’s where you will always find home.  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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