I was in kind of a surly mood anyway. I was in the middle of calving season, and the elements had not been treating me well. I was living on two or three hours of sleep a night. With the late snows and cold weather, it was more than I could do to keep up with dealing with 100 head of stupid first-calf heifers and rescuing newborn baby calves out of snowdrifts.

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Freelance Writer
Paul Marchant is a rancher and freelance writer in southern Idaho. Follow Paul Marchant on X (@pm...

But, regardless of my personal travails, I was attending to my civic duties with my attendance at the 4-H meeting.

After some discussion with the county 4-H program assistant prior to the meeting, I slipped into the meeting a few minutes after it had begun. I found a seat on the back row next to a friend I hadn’t seen for a couple of weeks. This particular guy is irreverent when he’s on his best behavior.

He’s the kind of guy who could sit in the back of the classroom in high school and crack jokes for an entire class period – and get away with it, while fools like me would take the brunt of the teacher’s wrath for laughing at the wisecracker. I should have known this was a bad recipe.

A lady from the state 4-H office, whom I’ve known and respected for years since my days as an extension agent, was giving a presentation about safety at 4-H-sponsored events. I, in my cantankerous mood, wasn’t too interested in what she was saying. It was much easier to give my attention to Bubba, seated next to me, as he joked about his most recent farming mishaps and misfortunes.


Neither of us made much of an attempt to even pretend to pay attention to the presenter, and I eventually realized that we were being as disruptive as a Donald Trump tweet at a vegetarian convention.

I came to that realization just a tad too late. After the meeting, as Bubba and I were actually discussing some serious matters with some concerned citizens, my former extension colleague cornered us, gave us a good dressing down and called us out for our rude behavior during her presentation.

I could only stand there and take the whipping. I felt about as small as when I got in trouble for punching a girl in the nose when I was in fourth grade. (In my defense, she was in fifth grade.)

After our whipping, Bubba was pretty much unfazed. He shrugged his shoulders and exclaimed, “Well, she was right, you know. We were really acting like …” Well, I can’t really give the exact quote, but he was right. Our behavior was altogether inappropriate and unacceptable.

In the time since, I’ve had time to reflect and regret. Common courtesy and decency, though sometimes in short supply, are traditional classics that should never go out of style.

As I’ve taken note of the heroic efforts and selfless acts of kindness that have come to light in the wake of the winter-induced disasters in my home country and the devastating fires that have scorched the High Plains, I’ve wondered why it takes a wreck for us to be part of, or even notice, life’s everyday miracles.

I once read a quote attributed to Albert Einstein: “I think the most important question facing humanity is: Is the universe a friendly place? It’s up to us to decide whether to believe in a friendly or hostile world. When you trust in goodness, that’s what you tend to find.”

I think Albert had it right. It doesn’t really take Einstein to figure that out. Whether you’re rescuing your neighbors from a ravaging wildfire or simply thanking your kids for doing the chores, complimenting your wife on her new fingernails or behaving yourself at a boring meeting, the opportunity to be part of a miracle isn’t all that hard to find.  end mark

Paul Marchant