April. It’s that time of year when our ecological matron tends to be more like an obnoxious little brother than the nurturing mother her name purports her to be. She teases and taunts with a touch of green grass, the promise of Easter and a hint of 70-degree afternoons and light evening rains, then backhands you with a 20-degree morning replete with a 30-mile-an-hour norther that won’t let up until well after you holler uncle. Mother Nature, indeed. Such was the morning I faced in the following tale.

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Freelancer Writer
Paul Marchant is a rancher and freelance writer in southern Idaho. Follow Paul Marchant on Twitt...

I had the truck loaded up with a couple ton bales of straw – my secret weapon to stretch my rapidly dwindling hay supplies until turnout – as I pulled into the field and through the throng of cows amassed at the southeast corner gate, forced there by the unrelenting wind howling from the north. Neither the cows nor I have much use, nor really know how to deal with, wind from the north since our prevailing southern Idaho gales generally rage at us from the southwest.

After opening the gate, I hopped on the back of the truck as Grandpa proceeded down into the draw so I could kick the straw off where there might be a chance it’d stay on the ground long enough for the cows to maybe grab it before it got carried off to Utah, or maybe even Arizona.

As I jumped down, I wasn’t met with the usual throng of cows, clambering to grab a bite before I cut the strings of the bales. The girls, not fooled by the straw masquerading as decent feed like they usually were when the ground was covered in snow, took advantage of the open gate and went chasing after any whisper of green they could find. There wasn’t much green out there – but they, like I myself, were captivated by the fool’s gold that is springtime in the high desert.

I shot a few profane terms of endearment out into the wind in the general direction of the 300 or so delighted bovines as they charged through the gate like a mob of college freshmen from Nebraska on their first spring break in Panama City.


I whistled for the dogs as we bounced back up through the brush and frozen cow pies toward the gate and the road where the gleeful cows were merrily trotting southward on their way to what they apparently perceived as greener pastures. With the help of my pack of eager mutts, it wasn’t really much of a chore to get the cows turned and headed back down the road.

The challenge now would be to get them turned into the gate, since we’d already established that until I loaded up some hay, the straw I’d offered for their breakfast wasn’t much of an enticement. I fully expected the cows to completely ignore the gate, and we’d have to continue the dance up and down the road until, well, the cows came home.

I was a couple hundred yards behind the leaders of the pack, coaxing along several baby calves who’d been caught up in the excitement of the stampede, so I was surprised to see what appeared to be a string of cows begrudgingly trundling back through the field where they belonged. How could this be? How could an early morning wreck be so easily resolved? Heaven must have been watching over me – and indeed it was. That fact was confirmed as the stragglers and I finally made it to the gate.

My guardian angels had arrived in the form of a couple of my good neighbors who were not completely unaccustomed to rescuing me from myself. Shannon, the young mother who was returning home from dumping a couple of her kids off at school, had stopped her blue kid hauler in the middle of the road and was directing the wayward cattle to make a left turn as her toddlers peered out into the wind from the passenger side window.

Right behind Shannon’s vehicle was the familiar form of Robert’s maroon Ford pickup. He’d been checking on his own cows a quarter-mile up the road and had noticed the parade. Not wanting to miss out on the fun, he rushed to the rescue, as well.

I was embarrassed at my plight and couldn’t help but overapologize several times as I thanked them for their help while we shepherded the last of the baby calves through the gate. Both of my rescuers were nonchalant in their cheerful responses, as if it was their honor to liberate one of their own from a mess, even if it was of his own making.

As I fought on through the rest of that day, the merciless wind kept on, unabated, but it somehow seemed to have lost its sting. I was humbled by having to accept help to save me from my own negligence. It was help I hadn’t asked for and sort of felt I didn’t deserve, yet it was gladly offered, just the same.

I couldn’t help but come to realize that maybe it was just as much my duty to graciously accept the help as it was the duty of my neighbors to offer it. In spite of the turbulence raging around me, the promise of spring and the Easter season it brings with it made a little more sense to me now.