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Irons in the fire: Reap what you sow and feed what you bale

Paul Marchant for Progressive Forage Published on 12 July 2019

All four tires on my old beater trailer were mostly worn out, somewhere between another couple hundred miles and barely hanging on. The manager of the tire shop wasn’t surprised to see me, nor was he surprised at the sorry state of my tires. He was pretty familiar with my routine.

There was no steel showing, so he knew I wasn’t there to buy tires. The spare, which happened to be the most stable looking of the five, had a slow leak. I needed to have it fixed before I used the trailer to haul horses out to the south BLM pasture. You can’t be too careful when it comes to your tires, you know.

As I leaned back on the fender of the trailer out behind the shop and soaked in what little there was of the late springtime sun while I waited for the latest employee of the month to check the tire, I noticed a familiar face behind the windshield of the pickup that pulled in behind me. Limping behind the pickup was an old utility trailer which, on account of its haggard appearance, looked like it could very well have been stolen from behind my shop. I, of course, had no such trailer, but if I did it would probably match this trailer blemish for blemish.

The feller dragging the trailer in question was none other than my good friend Jeff, who ranches over on the other side of the Albion range in the shadow of the Cotterell Mountains. He knew he needed to replace the bearings in the wheels on both sides of the trailer anyway, so he paid little heed to the stream of black and gray smoke that trailed behind him as he barreled over the Albion grade on his way into Burley.

Jeff is an old bulldogger – as stout as he is affable, as good as he is tough, and as kind-hearted as he is cantankerous. He survived a fall off a 50-foot cliff while fighting a range fire, and I once saw him stand down one of the biggest names and loudest mouths in the PRCA as the self-proclaimed superstar was trying to make his own personal shortcut to an arena through a 4-H parking lot. After a two-minute, mostly R-rated, conversation and one look into Jeff’s evil stink-eye stare, Mr. Bigshot snaked his million-dollar trailer back out onto the road with his tail between his legs.

The weather was not quite spring yet not quite winter. Like me, Jeff was weary of feeding cows and itching to get his cows turned out on grass. Besides his visit to the tire shop to get his wheel bearings packed (well, really, replaced), he was also on a quest for a new pitchfork. It seems the day before, he’d somehow ended up doing the feeding alone. While feeding without the help of his 30-something-year-old son, Kody, was not usually a real problem, on this day not only was Kody absent, so was the pitchfork.

Jeff ended up feeding four six-string ton bales of powdery, dusty alfalfa that flaked off the truck about as neatly as a 3 ton sack of flour, without the sack. By the time he was done, he looked like a giant asparagus stalk with eyes, straight out of a bad Veggie Tales episode. He was not a very jolly green giant. To exacerbate his frustrations, he clearly remembered the conversation he’d had with Kody the previous July, when his son had given up on waiting for some late-night or early morning dew and had gone ahead and baled half a pivot of over-dry hay so they could get the water back on the scorching field, in hopes of getting at least a poor to middling shot at some regrowth.

Jeff had told his hard-working, well-intentioned son it was fine, but by golly he’d better be around when it came time to feed the powdered green feedstuff, all the while figuring he’d most likely have to help pay Kody’s fiddler the following spring.

His tale of woe brought tears to my eyes, more a result of my inability to control my laughter than compassion for his plight. That story was something straight out of my playbook, and I apologized to him that my luck and good fortune had rubbed off on him. He forgave me for my part in his bad luck and laughed about how he had been anxious to teach his boy about the law of the harvest: You reap what you sow, and you feed what you bale. This time, though, the sins of the children were visited upon the father.  end mark

Paul Marchant
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