I went out early that morning to grain and water the leppies and misfits. We were planning on moving cows that morning from Lake Creek to Carson Creek Canyon, and we wanted to get to it before the heat of the midmorning sucked all the fun out of being a cowboy.

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

I’d arranged to meet the Puckerbrush Ranch crew at Camel Rock at 7 a.m. I turned the water on and stuck the hose in the tub that watered the lame calf in the east pen. I left the water running and the gates open as I packed some grain to the other calves.

As I dumped the grain, I looked around and saw that two curious heifers had discovered the open gate. I made a vulgar comment about their parentage as I ran back to get around them. They, of course, had the jump on me and bounded out of the gate and onto the road. I got around them as they stopped thirty yards down the road to check out the open gate into the stackyard. It only took three or four minutes, but by the time I had them gathered and hoo-rahed back to their pen, the water in the trough had overflowed and created a royal mud hole, into which I slid, face first, necessitating a complete change of clothes.

By the time I changed my clothes, caught, saddled and loaded the horses, and trailered up to the meeting spot, I was nearly half-an-hour late, which resulted in a late gather, which resulted in a much longer, hotter day than any of us would have preferred. It was miserable. But everything happens for a reason, doesn’t it?

A week later, I was in the middle of a 14-hour solo road trip to “the valley” in Arizona. So I had a big chunk of time to spend with some pretty mediocre company. Naturally, I’d be in the market for something to entertain me – or at least help keep me awake. Trips like this one make me grateful I’ve figured out enough about technology to take advantage of a few of the perks offered by my smartphone. One of my favorite new discoveries is the downloading of podcasts.


To be sure, I still have plenty of old-school left in me. I haven’t forgotten how to work the radio dial. As a matter of fact, as I drove from Page to Flagstaff, KTNN AM 660, the voice of the Navajo Nation, was my traveling partner for most of that stretch. After a few hundred miles, however, even KTNN, one of my favorites from years past, has its limits, both in terms of signal strength and entertainment value. Enter the podcast.

As a sports junkie of sorts, I’ve discovered a couple of sports-related podcasts that are generally entertaining and informative without being too inflammatory. They can keep my mind awake and alert without forcing that same mind to spontaneously combust, like some of the nonsensical political programs tend to do.

It was on my return trip to Idaho. I was in southern Utah, somewhere between Panguitch and Beaver. The interview was with a college basketball player who’d experienced some notable success on the court but who, after some off-court missteps followed by some soul searching and diminished playing time, had decided to retire from basketball with a year of eligibility remaining. The dude had made a few knucklehead decisions – but he had, it seemed to me, straightened out his life and sought and found honest redemption. For the most part, I admired him. Through his struggles, he seemed to have really grown. The overarching theme of his message seemed to center around a statement he made.

He said, “Everything happens for a reason.”

This statement struck me, but not in the way you may think. It’s a common pronouncement, heard often from someone going through difficult circumstances or circumstances not to their liking. I don’t mean to come across as a heartless, irascible pessimist, but I’m not a fan of the “everything happens for a reason” proclamation.

Of course everything happens for a reason. And I don’t believe the reasons are always a secret part of the grand plan of Deity. The reason some things – I dare say most things – happen is because of the cause of an event, not the possible end result of that event or chain of events.

In the case of Mr. All-American, perhaps the reason he lost half a season of eligibility, among other things, in his fall from grace was that he got caught accepting improper benefits from hot-shot boosters. I don’t think the heavens, or the basketball gods, fashioned a predetermined path from which he couldn’t stray.

I think he made some decisions all by himself, independent of anyone or anything else. As for my renegade leppies and subsequent miserable, hot day in the saddle, the reason was simply because I wasn’t savvy enough to shut a gate.

Make no mistake. I think both basketball boy and I learned some valuable lessons. But to my way of thinking, the lessons were not the reasons for the circumstances; they were (fortunate) byproducts of unfortunate circumstances which were results of our choices or the simple functions of life.

Also, to my way of thinking, I believe there’s someone greater and kinder than we’re able to comprehend who knows of and understands each of our misdeeds and mistakes, as well as our victories, our heartaches, our humility and our pain. And because of that infinite, incomprehensible compassion, we can figure things out – even if we don’t know the reason why.