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Irons in the fire: No payment necessary, no thanks required

Paul Marchant for Progressive Forage Published on 28 November 2018

I was sitting at the kitchen table with my laptop open, completely focused on the information in front of me. We had scheduled a couple of loads of fat cattle to be shipped later that week and, with the razor-thin margins, I was ever so interested in what the market was telling me that morning.

It was that time of the morning when it’s not quite dark anymore but neither is it quite yet daylight.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the red running lights of the school bus as it lumbered up the road. I glanced up at the clock and noticed the bus was two-and-a-half minutes later than usual. That was about the same moment my wife tenderly hollered at me from the back porch, where she was lovingly straightening up the five pairs of dirty boots and the collection of ball caps and hats of both the straw and felt variety. (She has no empathy for hat collectors.)

“Looks like your horses are out again. I saw the bus slow down by the shop,” she quipped.

My first thought was to question her as to why they are my horses when they’re out or causing mischief, yet they’re ours when everything is in order. My second thought was not fit for print. My third thought was I must have left the gate open again. My fourth and only sensible and practical thought was I should probably get out there and get them rounded up.

Thankfully, the ringleader gelding of the maverick remuda was amenable to my terms and simply trotted through the gate when I opened it, his cohorts closely in tow. The half-dozen delinquent cayuses were running in a 200-acre piece behind Grandpa’s house. The field was dug up and marked out for potatoes for next spring. The horses were turned out in the field to make use of the fencelines and corners and to save a nickel or two on hay.

I figured a gate in a far corner of the field had been left open by a lazy hunter or tractor driver. Sure enough, the gate (if two strands of rusty barbed wire and 20 feet of baling twine can rightfully be classified as a gate) in the southwest corner was open. No harm had been done and, after Grandpa shut the gate and checked the other gates, I pretty much forgot the matter.

Later that day, as I was in the middle of sorting calves, my phone buzzed. I wasn’t able to answer it and, when I checked an hour later, noticed it was my neighbor who had called. When I returned his call, he told me he’d just called to apologize. The day before, he’d been moving his fall-calving heifers, and a couple of them had slipped through my improvised barbed twine gate. He dropped the gate to retrieve the wayward heifers and, in the pressure of moving a bunch of young mamas and babies, had forgotten to ride back and shut the “gate.”

It was a less-than-minor incident for which no apology was necessary. I told him so and thanked him for calling. Not long after that call, another neighbor called. She had several packages of frozen french fries and hashbrowns. She wondered if we’d like some if she brought them down. She then confessed she was looking for an excuse to bring her 5-year-old son down to check out the litter of 2-week-old pups residing under the old loading-chute-turned- canine maternity ward.

Similar to my conversation with the first neighbor, I told her they were welcome to snuggle our pups or borrow a shovel or take a bale of hay whenever they needed. There was no need to even ask or question.

I found gratitude came easy that day. Maybe they were seemingly insignificant gestures. But I was grateful to be surrounded by people whose priority it was to be of the highest moral character, regardless of the circumstances or who was watching. Since my horses are out on a fairly regular basis, I would have been none the wiser had I not received the call about the open gate. If we hadn’t been home, we probably would have still been the recipients of some frozen potatoes, set just inside the front door.

Somehow, it seems I’ve always been blessed to be surrounded by selfless, generous people who do the right thing and give of themselves, regardless of who is or is not watching. It’s not easy to be the recipient of selfless giving. But I’ve come to believe humble receiving is perhaps as important to a soul’s progression as is unselfish giving.

At this time of year, I hope we can be as humble and grateful in receiving as we are generous in giving. Especially in regards to the gift from Him whose birth we celebrate and whose generous, loving sacrifice can never be truly comprehended, much less repaid.

Merry Christmas.  end mark

Paul Marchant
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