Twas one of those days that my patience and consideration for most of anything was lacking. I had stopped at the local WinCo supermarket, and the shopping cart on the end of the row refused to come loose. After a couple of hard yanks, I looked at it closer and could see where it was hanging up on the next cart.

With another impatient yank, I separated the two and headed toward the entrance. A lady had been watching this, and as I passed by the bin of watermelon, she asked how to choose a good melon.

Apparently, being able to rapidly unstick grocery carts made me a watermelon expert. At least telling the story got a laugh from my wife later.

The new year is upon us, and with it comes things we’ve done before and also, unless it’s a boring, unusual year, there will be new things, new breakdowns, new technologies, new sicknesses of cattle, pets, horses and family.

One of my college professors also shared an interest in his family’s ranching operation in the area of the Idaho/Utah border. The practice for years had been: Once the winter wheat sown in the fall for the next summer’s harvest had grown a few inches, the beef cow herd was allowed to graze on it. It was excellent feed, and they’d compared fields fall grazed with similar ungrazed fields and found no difference in grain yield the following summer.


One year the fellow caring for the cow herd came to the owners with a dilemma.

Instead of grazing and consuming the tops of the wheat, the cattle were pulling it out of the ground, roots and all. The puzzle was solved when they considered the fall rain pattern that year. (This was dryland farming, with only the rain for moisture.)

On a normal year, after sowing the crop pretty much “in the dust,” the fall rains would wet the soil and sprout the wheat seeds, which would grow 4-8 inches tall before the frost made it dormant until spring. Instead of some good soaking rains as usual, that year they’d only received some passing showers, which only soaked in an inch or so. The roots of the sprouting wheat were crowning out as usual, but the deep root system had not developed since there was no moisture to draw the roots deeper.

The solution was to take the cattle out of the grain fields that fall.

On the topic of dryland farming, you may have seen grain harvest trucks with their exhaust system pointing skyward, either through the hood or front fenders. When one of those older gasoline trucks would backfire, there were too many instances of said backfire throwing enough sparks to set fire to the tinder-dry stubble in the fields.

I remember my Dad telling me to never leave the tractor and baler in the stubble field because that was always a fire danger.

Things get interesting when people think you will always have all the answers. A fellow once asked me something about his car. I didn’t have a clue. He was mad at me. He honestly believed I just didn’t want to take the time to tell him.

Then there was the fellow who came to me excited because he’d found a set of ignition points and condenser under the distributor cap on a propane lift truck instead of the electronic ignition module he was expecting. He was afraid to touch them! Ignition points I understand.

So how does one handle a new “situation"?

Just like you always have. Move the spark-throwing exhaust away from the straw. Figure out why something breaks or isn’t working. A fellow had a new swather that just wasn’t working cutting alfalfa hay. He asked a fellow who had been custom haying for years to look at it. He did. “That thing will never be any good cutting irrigated hay. The sickle and guards should be on a combine, cutting dryland wheat.” (This was decades before rotary swathers showed up.)

Some time back, I gave a grandson a handful of tools when he got his first car. Last summer, I found out that some lowlife had stolen his tools. I asked if he had replaced what he needed, and he said he had. Then he said that the thing he hadn’t been able to replace was the card that went with the tools that said, “No matter what you’re working on, just remember that the guys who made it are not smarter than you are!”

Should the new year bring health and family challenges, realize that the Creator of all understands and will be there with each of us to make it through even those things that appear hopeless.