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Irons in the fire: Weather and luck

Paul Marchant Published on 28 January 2015

Old Mother Nature can surely be a crafty old gal; just ask anyone in Texas and Oklahoma who suffers through a three-year drought twice a decade or the folks in Iowa, Illinois or Ohio who were trying to calve in 2 feet of snow last spring.

In my neck of the woods, in southern Idaho, she’s been known to play a few tricks every now and then, too. This past fall was one of the craziest I’ve ever seen.

Instead of the dry lightning storms that usually show up around the middle of August and serve us with nothing but a few nasty range fires, last year we got rain with the lightning – lots of rain (lots in Idaho terms, that is).

The rain came in big doses, the likes of which we just don’t see. It was kind of like a visit from your mother-in-law – you know, it’s a pretty good thing to begin with. The wife’s happy. The kids get presents they don’t deserve.

Everyone gets along. But after a couple of weeks, everyone kind of needs to get back to normal. If she stays too long, nobody’s quite sure how to deal with it.

Our mother-in-law rains wreaked havoc with the southern Idaho grain harvest, but they made grass like I’ve never seen before. The country just looked different.

It was green in September and October where it’s always brown and dry. The cows were happy, and the calves were big and fat. Those are good problems to have. But with all the grass and the unusually warm temperatures that stayed late into the fall, we had more trouble gathering cows than we’ve ever had.

Come the middle of October, with a touch of cold weather and a little bit of snow, the cows are generally in a big hurry to come home. Such was not the case in 2014.

Not only did we have to ride a lot more to coax the old girls to come home, the cattle were scattered over a lot more country. It was a new experience for them – and us.

Because we had cows scattered far and wide, they’d often end up on the wrong side of the mountain in someone else’s herd. Everyone was chasing around from Goose Creek to Almo with trailers trying to gather up wayward pairs.

One Saturday afternoon, I loaded a horse to go fetch a pair I’d seen in a neighbor’s herd down in the flat about 5 miles from home. I got the cow and calf gathered into a nearby corral without much trouble.

Along with the old spotted cow and her calf, there was a heifer that belonged to one of my closest neighbors. I figured I’d just load her up as well and deliver her to her rightful home.

Once I got them in the pen and sorted out to load, it became quite apparent that this brockle-faced heifer was rank and goofy. I backed up to the alley and enlisted the help of a friend, who was fixing a fence nearby, to help me load the critters.

I slid open the sliding door of the trailer and waited while he hoo-rahed them up the alley and into the trailer. I had my hand on the door so I could slide it shut before they could realize they were captured and head back the other way.

When the yearling came barreling into the trailer, her hip hit the door, which wasn’t quite open all the way. The door, with my hand still on it, slid back to the fully open position.

My hand was caught between the sliding door and the solid half of the door, and I was stuck like a muskrat in a trap. I somehow avoided screaming like a girl and was able to push the door closed with my free hand before the beasts escaped.

I don’t deal well with pain, so I’m not sure how I got my horse loaded and drove home. I had to have my sister, who was visiting for the day, deliver the she-devil heifer and unload our cow into the hayfield. Within an hour my broken hand had swelled up and looked like a big russet spud with pudgy fingers.

A week or two later, I was commiserating with a friend of mine who was recovering from a bad horse wreck with plates and pins in his torn-up ankle. The discussion gave me pause to reflect.

It occurred to me, as it has countless times before under myriad circumstances, that life isn’t fair. I was in the right place at the right time doing the right thing, as was my busted-up friend.

Yet, bad things happened. It’s a discussion I’ve often bored my kids with. Bad things sometimes happen to good people. It can happen on a hill at a badger hole in Idaho or a newspaper office in Paris.

I believe, however, that the most important thing is that good people continue to do good things, no matter how many bad things may come their way.  FG