There’s something about small towns on Independence Day.
They go all out. The populations double. The streets are packed solid. The city parks overflow.
We went to Crawford for their parade. They are THE place to be on the fourth. Arriving early enough to only need to park a few blocks away from the parade rout we hiked to the proper road and found a place with some shade. Of course we knew someone across the street from where we sat. They walked over to say hi, then to visit with the people next to us who they also knew. We knew many of the people in the parade even though it was a good hour from us. Everyone knows everyone.
As a local girl sang the anthem not one person remained seated or left a hat on. The American Legion marched proudly passed carrying the colors. I knew the one carrying the American flag and fondly remembered his telling of crashing a plane somewhere overseas and meeting with the boy from a farm across the highway from him in the rescue crew. Or was he the rescue crew. I wished I could sit and talk to him and hear the story again of the joy and surprise of meeting a neighbor from back home while halfway around the world.
We tried to find a happy medium between encouraging the kids to grab the copious amounts of candy thrown out and making sure they didn’t dive under horse hooves or tractor tires. An older gentleman, a complete stranger, that we were sitting next to took to helping them gather as much candy as they could. Going out into the road after candy he thought they shouldn’t be taking the chance at getting themselves.
The parade over flowed with horses. Their shoes ringing loudly on the asphalt. The huge teams prancing or plodding as they pulled wagons slowly along. One team of oxen even, the announcer telling how they were used to feed the more lowly cattle all winter.
There were tractors, with darling farm kids driving them. Is there anything cuter than a farm kid proud to drive his tractor in the big parade? Old cars, semis, and the whole fire department worth of fire trucks. It took me a minute to recognize my farrier in one of them. Volunteers everyone of the but they are happy to give up watching the parade to drive in it. The children fully appreciated that and were surprised to hear their names called from inside one of them. A friend from school! They all waved enthusiastically.
The motorcycles made the ground shake as they rumbled by. I happened to glance down the street as they passed. The view was spectacular. The tree lined street was packed with people. The flags waved, a solid line down the center of the street.
Somewhere people are burning the flag, complaining about this country. Here we still acknowledge it as the place people are flocking to for a freedom, equality, and a chance to strive for the good life. Here we know how good we have it. What could be better than a small town parade?
The few drops that fell from a dark cloud that barely darkened the blinding sun nearly sizzled as the hit the ground. Evaporating as they landed. Wiping sweat from our brow we continued the task that made it cool enough to be outside. Parked in the lawn, not a drop of the car washing went to waste. The thirsty grass sucked up every drop that dripped off the car.
The car came clean. The small cloud passed. The sun baked the dry earth. Without a drop of rain since May? We got a good one sometime this spring and one snow last winter. That gained us enough grass to maybe make the summer but what was there crackled as you walked on it, baked brown and crispy by the hot dry heat.
As the afternoon wore on we gave in and coward inside. The temperature gauge hidden in the shade under the eve of the house read 102 degrees.
The weather radio started cackling at us while the sun shown down. It didn’t come as a surprise, despite the lack of clouds. It was obviously building to a storm.
I decided to wash my pickup. It was the day for it apparently. I pulled her into the yard too. Found a spot that looked dry and parked there. As I washed the horizon grew dark. Checking the radar over and over, fingers crossed, hoping hard. It’s a fine line between praying for rain and cussing the hail that comes with it. As I washed the dark clouds began to ruble with thunder.
Another curse of rain. If any lightning came down with that thunder there would be fires.
I washed and waited.
It’s amazing how much dirt can cake the bottom of a working pickup that never gets washed. No wonder it shook so bad the few times I take it on the highway. Still the clouds billowed. The thunder rumbled. I decided to take the clothes down off the line and get them inside. It was obviously building to a storm.
Cooking supper. Checking the computer. I found pictures of a tornado snaking across a pasture to the east of us. Maybe the clouds really were going to go by without leaving us a drop. They had been all summer, why should it be any different today. The weather radio went off. We tuned in to the radio station used as a land mark for the location of the radio. Still the thunder rumbled. The dog coward under the bed.
My husband and son went outside to watch the clouds. The wind had picked up. The radar showed storms right over the top of us. Nothing but dark skies and thunder here. Even if it looked like it was building to a storm.
I went out to join them. As we stood there a drop fell. Then another. We grabbed flower pots and moved them to safety. It was obviously building to a storm.
The thunder got louder. The horses galloped about the pens after each clap. The raindrops fell huge and heavy. Obvious precursors to the hail that began to fall with them. My husband went inside. Worry for crops and garden stronger than the need for rain. He couldn’t watch. My son and I went to the front door to watch. The rain came down hard. The wind blew. The hail never got worse. My pumpkin leaves would have holes in there. The would grow anyway. The grass was beat down but no longer crisp.
The hail stopped. The rain went on.
As it eased slightly we rushed outside, all of use children. There were water puddles to jump in, mud to squish between our toes. Who knows how long it would be before another storm would build.
I didn’t have to get up at five most days for the last week to go rake hay before coming in for breakfast then heading off to a real job all day. That means I don’t get to complain about little things like hauling hay. It’s not a bad job at all really. I can drive a stick shift. I can drive a stick shift with a small child on my lap helping. I think there should be competitions involving that sort of technical difficulties.
Out bouncing around the hay field with a rather heavy child sitting on the leg that had to work the clutch, helping steer there wasn’t much time to pay attention to anything else.
At one point I pulled my phone out to see what time it was.That was when I saw it.
My husband was on the line. The timer said he had been for eighteen minutes! Hoping he somehow hadn’t noticed I held it to my hears and said hi? No one said anything. I quickly hung up.
Because speed mattered at this point.
Slipping my phone back into the holster we went back to driving.
A moment latter my phone rang. It was my husband! Sheepishly I answered. Had he noticed that I had apparently accidentally dialed him? I asked, hoping somehow this was coincidence and he hadn’t.
He had noticed. Not only that but he had set his phone next to him while he worked and listened to me and the child as we talked and drove and pretended he was with us instead. He missed us. We missed him. Not sure I had ever heard anything sweeter I tried talking and driving with my helper on my lap.
That is not an award I would win in my imaginary competition. We had to say good bye.
This will forever be remembered as the year we all learned, or relearned, how to ride our bicycles.
First The Goblin Child hopped on and went all by herself as soon as she made up her mind to ride and did it all in one day.
Now 8 has done the same.
He spent a couple of days with feet stuck out to the side coasting down the hills. Then he started pedaling and was off.
With everyone else riding and wanting us to come along my multi faceted husband got his bike down from storage and rode along with them. The bike is a left over from many years ago before every last drop of his spare time was taken up by the children and I. When he is working, which is usually, I hop on his bike. I’ve been enjoying, kind of, my rides on the ‘snorty sorrel’. It’s bright red coat gleaming in the sun light. As usual after so long without riding my legs ache after just a short time.
We are trying to keep up daily rides to the mail box and back, a mile round trip. There is a hill in the middle. I can barely make it. The kids are better at it. We all spend a good bit of time walking. Hopefully by the end of summer we will be zipping clear to the highway and back without dying.
The kids and I spent last summer checking on the heifers. Towards fall we took over the cow herd too. This year we are starting out with the whole bunch.
While fixing fences this spring we found one tank badly in need of banking, piling dirt in around it so the cows, and calves, can reach over the side to get a drink. It was dug and washed down so deep next to the tank that only the cows could reach and only if they stretched clear up and over. That left one little tank for the cattle to drink out of. If it got filled by the big tank once the big tank got full. Which it couldn’t because the side of the tank was getting smashed lower than the over flow by cows standing on tip toes to reach over the side.
I bugged my husband until we all went over and got it fixed!
Today was the first day we were able to get back over and check on the repairs. The tanks looked good.
We went past the heifers. Their tank didn’t look good. It looked empty.
One heifer was in the tank. The rest were standing around looking thirsty. There was water still in the water hole next to it. It wasn’t an extreme emergency. Something needed done though. Soon. I was trying to decide if we could move the herd of yearlings, cow people will understand the issues involved with trying to move yearlings, using only one pickup across a wide open hay field. Or if we should go home and get the pickup and trailer and two 4wheelers.
As always happens when I need him, whether I know it or not, my husband called. He told me to check a few things before jumping straight to moving heifers. I know nothing about working on windmills. He said to look down the pipe and see of we could see the rod down there that the chain was supposed to be hooked to. I couldn’t.
As we were talking about how it wasn’t going to work our son was fiddling around. He held up the pipe that we were looking down. He had unscrewed it! Now we could see, and reach, another six inches down. With the top of the pipe off we could see the rod! Brilliant child.
Hanging up we went to work trying to follow directions and improvise to get them to work. Releasing the break on the windmill we let the wind lower the chain as far down as possible. It wasn’t near close enough to connect the chain coming down from the windmill to the rod it had to pump to bring up water.
All we had on hand were my fencing pliers, one vice grip, a flash light we found in the glove box, and a piece of chain left hanging on the windmill.
Using that we were able to remove the piece that needed to screw onto the rod. We got that, and the spare piece of chain attached to it. screwed onto the rod! The horror that would occur if we dropped anything down the pipe was fresh on my mind and I repeated it continuously to the children. My daughter clung to the chain and the lower half of the concoction as if her life depended on it.
No matter how hard we pulled we couldn’t get the rod up any higher. No matter how much we let the windmill go hoping it would somehow lower itself enough to reach, it couldn’t. When we connected rod and chain, using our spare chain, we could get the rod high enough but couldn’t hold it there to disconnect and reconnect chains.
I was about to give up.
Just when I needed him, my husband called back to see how things were going. Should he leave work and drive over?
From the first time I met him there hasn’t been a time that I really needed him that God hasn’t sent my husband to me. I try not to let myself get too comfortable in the knowledge that he will be there, but he always is.
We told him our problem. He gave us a solution. Take the vice grips off the chain where we were using them to hold the two chunks together. Find some wire, we were fencing after all, we had wire! Use that to hold the chains together. Let the windmill pull the rod up. Quickly snap the vice grips onto the rod to hold it up where it needed to be, disconnect and reconnect the chains where they needed to be.
Duh. So simple but so far out of my ignorant brain.
We went to work at it. Both children had been right there with me this whole time, working as hard as they could. Accomplishing every bit as much as I was. What good kids and what a great learning opportunity.
With a good bit of trial and error, but no fingers pinched or eyes poked out by wires flying through the air, we eventually got it. We only had to take out bolt back out once to put the pipe back over the chain so we could screw it back on once we had the chain connected. Sometimes the wind died down. As soon as we needed to rod drawn up a gust would come by and turn the windmill. God was with us in so many ways.
Wires removed, nuts tightened on the bolt. break released on the windmill the wind came up steady. Pumping water into the empty tank. It was flowing again. The windmill working beautifully. We had succeeded. To kids, a pair of fencing pliers, one vice grip, and me in my complete ignorance of windmill. And my husband over the phone of course.
We got a call late last night. The neighbor would be driving his heard of cows over in the morning to load them using our corrals and haul them to pasture. No idea when.
So we went out by the light of the moon, a very bright half moon, and closed gates on the horses so everything was ready and they were out of the way. You never know sometimes, people will show up at the crack of dawn.
My hard working husband has been up at dawn all weekend, his usual one chance to sleep in a little, and out raking hay. He did the same this morning. I get to sleep in. Until about six thirty at least which is when the kids are up running around. The guys didn’t show up until late, eightish maybe? They came and unloaded 4wheelers here to ride back and get the herd. I went out to make sure my horse stuff was out of the way so they could get to the chutes with pickups and trailers. My husband came in from the field to make sure they had everything they needed. I hopped on with him and we ran to make sure gates were closed around the corn fields and to hold the driveway when they went by. There was barely time to get around that as the herd came trotting over the hills down the road. From our drive we watched them veer sharply off into the crp to the north then back again. Past us the trotted, off and running.
We rushed back to drop my husband off to get back to raking and I went around through the pasture to offer any more help they might need. The cows went right where they were supposed to and were captured in the high guard rail fences of the corrals.
One child was in the tractor helping bale. I ran inside to check on the other than out to offer any help I could.
They were busy sorting calves off. I was going pretty well. Of course that couldn’t last. The cows started balking. The tall skinny guy, I didn’t know them, they were people the neighbor had gotten to come help him, the tall skinny guy was trying to get only cows. The other guy was trying to help. The main sort didn’t go bad beyond some cussing and a few bruises.
Then there was the second sort. A handful of bull calves that hadn’t been castrated. Those were harder to carefully pull out of the other calves. More cussing and a few yelps, I was happy to be standing quietly at the gate away from the commotion. The neighbor was in there sorting now. That made it go a little smoother. His cows know him and are used to him. They don’t take strangers well. Finally the bull were pulled out. There was one brockle faced, spotted with white, heifer in with them. At first they were going to get her. Then the neighbor said to leave her. There was something about her he didn’t like, she wouldn’t make a good cow. She might as well go to the sale barn. The destination of the bulls apparently.
No sooner had he said that then she made a swoop past me. I leapt onto the gate. She ran past me and dove out the gate. The tall skinny guy was standing in the middle of the lane. Minding his own business. The heifer was running hard down the center of the lane. Heading elsewhere. Unfortunately they were both in the same place at the same time. She jumped into the air. He may have froze, he may have tried to move but didn’t have time, he may have thought she wouldn’t take him.
She crashed into him, took him down. Landed on top of him. Thrashed around awhile. They both were on the ground rolling about. She got up first, stomped on him some more then was off. He laid there awhile, getting his breath and his bearings I would guess. We could easily see why she wouldn’t make a cow. She dove for all of us a few more times before that bunch was put safely off in their own pen.
Where I had to sneak in and try to get a close up picture of her whorl! I did, with the handy zoom on my phone. She tried to eat me a few times. Fortunately didn’t succeed.
There were three stock trailers to fill and just splitting cows from calves didn’t fit what room there was to fill. There was a little more sorting to do. Pulling a few big calves off to fit in the trailer with the cows. One of them was not happy. Another heifer who took after us a few times. The other guy, not tall and skinny, hung out up on the fence with me. He had a few bruises of his own already and enough sense not to want a repeat of what tall skinny guy got.
The bull, the big one, not the calves, got pulled off too. He was staying behind after it took a lady with her good roping horse and herd of dogs to get him loaded and brought home last fall. Some may remember the days long adventure that was bringing this neighbors cows home last fall. The bull was not happy to be separated from his herd. As we loaded the others he tried to jump the tall guard rail fences, hung up at the girth and slid defeatedly back to the side he was supposed to be on.
With the cattle loaded and gone we moved the bull, bull calves, and killer heifer to a pen where they would have food and water until the neighbor came for them. Back inside the house I sat down to get some work done.
Soon my cow hating husband came in the door. Would I mind coming out? The bull had jumped out of the pen and needed to be put back.
When we got out there he wasn’t hanging out around the corrals and cows like I had rather expected. Instead he was on the far side of a corn field. Great. I said I’d go back for a horse so we didn’t smash so much corn driving over it with 4wheelers. Working on saddling a horse I got a call. He had left the corn field and was headed east. Towards home.
I rushed out on the 4wheeler to find them and him in the section line. A ‘road’ between fields, no maintenance, no gravel, just grass. As I got into the section line, no where near him, he jumped into a different neighbors field. Freshly planted. We sat and pondered life for awhile. The mistakes we had made that lead us to this unfortunate position. Selling out and moving to town, going home and getting a rifle.
In the end we followed him into the field. He obviously knew where home was and wanted to go there. We could escort him. I drove alongside him my dusty dirty husband behind. The bull hadn’t been mean through any of this. He just didn’t care if you were there and walked right through you. With our son sitting in front of me I kept picturing how easily the big bull could turn and topple us, 4hwheeler and all. We switched places with my husband. Slightly easier to get out of the way without a small child to get to safety too.
Squinting against the dust we stirred up in the bone dry field the boy was a trooper. Proud of himself for being out there doing a mans job and doing a good job at it. He was happy to claim the well deserved title of a ‘real cowboy’.
We got across the field and the bull happily hopped the fence into the next neighbors field. This one was in grass at least and not as filthy. On the other side was the road and his home where he spent the winter and wanted back to.
So he jumped the other fence into still another neighbors wheat field.
The wheat looks great this year. They got the weeds under control and it seems to have gotten enough moisture to grow tall enough to almost hide a full grown bull. Who left a path of destruction in his wake. We didn’t follow. He was going fine on his own.
Fence after fence, field after field, he wandered towards his home. We sat to the side and tried to guide him as best we could. He went home in a round about way. Finally he ended up in his corrals. They are much less sturdy than the guard rail and railroad tie pen he left. Hopefully it is where he wanted to be, even without his cow herd there, and he will stay. If not. We’re all in trouble. Maybe he’ll go find a herd of cows somewhere and stay with them.
We got to go to our favorite swimming hole yesterday. It’s been awhile. We didn’t get to go at all last year.
It’s just a bend in the river in the middle of someones pasture near the gravel road. The people who own the pasture allow people to come swim, which is incredibly nice of them in today’s sue happy world. It’s only locals which helps. People from the surrounding farms.
It is wide and shallow. Except for the water fall which is deep and rapid. Perfect for the kids to explore and scare us to death. It has moved back a good long ways from where it was last time we were there. Now there is a deep fast channel at the base. I jumped in to join the kids in the fun and never touched bottom. It’s probably incredibly dangerous.
Both a good and bad thing. I can’t believe she nested there. It feels like I just turned the windmill on. Surely there couldn’t even have been water there when she started sitting? Or maybe it’s been on longer than I think?
Hopefully they can survive the cows. One of them was very curious while we were there. I was about ready to jump in boots and all and chase her away. The mom took off running through the grass when we got there. Trying to lure the predator away I’m guessing.
I want to point out that this isn’t a natural pond. It is only there because of the cattle. Without them there would be much less water like this available for wildlife. There is no moving cattle to save ducks. We will have to trust them to survive in the wild just like they always do. We just gave them a little extra help by having cattle there. As is usually the case.
Makes me wonder more about the coyote we chased off checking the tank just before putting the cattle in. Maybe it was yet another case of wildlife being saved by cattle and routine cattle care. They will continue to keep coyotes at bay. Cows don’t regularly let coyotes hang out with them.
Driving home last night I slowed down upon seeing some deer grazing along the road. The deer are so bad on our road I’m getting to be as bad as those Aussies, refusing to drive at night out of fear of hitting things. We may bot have kangaroos here, but deer are a close second.
As I slowed down I noticed something different about these deer.
They were elk!
This was just over a mile from our house. Elk aren’t uncommon around here, just not right here. We get them on our pasture and wheat fields west of here about ten miles all the time. That’s a lot closer to the pine ridge, their usual habitat. Right here we never get them.
We did get a mountain lion a couple of years ago, also more common in the pine ridge. Maybe the extra numbers of them are pushing the elk farther afield?
I stopped in the middle of the road for a few minutes to look at them and grab a few pictures. Then they ran off, towards our home. As cool as it is to see them I hope they don’t actually come visit. Those things are hard on fences!
Quite a few years ago, our youngest was just a baby, I said sure, I could drive the semi and haul a load of hay. It was just a couple of miles from home.I could handle a stickshift semi that far. I can drive a stick. Learned to drive in one, the memory of which is still mocked by my loving mother. Once you can drive a stick you can drive any stick. From a tractor to a pickup. It’s a good skill to have.
I drove over to the highway and around the field while my husband loaded the hay trailer. Then headed for home with a full load of hay. All was well until I got to the big hill between our house and the hay field. The semi lugged up the hill then died.
I let it roll backwards down the hill, keeping on the road with my superior driving skills 🤦🏼♀️ Double checking to make sure I had it in first I tried again, and again, and again. Before I finally called my husband nearly in tears to come back and save me.
He came back, hopped in, and drove home.
I followed on the fourwheeler fuming. When he hopped out at home perfectly happy and cheerful to inform me that I had forgotten to shift out of high range. that was the closest we’ve ever come to divorce.
This weekend we worked the calves and hauled them to pasture. On the second load, in the heat of the hottest day yet this year, the pickup I was driving with a trailer full of calves decided it was done. I feel I should mention here that the calves are hauled separate to keep the cows from smashing them. As soon as they all get to pasture they will be reunited.
Anyway, with a trailer full of calves, their moms in the semi ahead of us with my husband driving, the pickup decided it couldn’t make it up the big hill. A different big hill this time.For years it has had issues going in the heat, it lugs and lurches. The mechanics can never find the problem because it only does it in the heat with a trailer. Today it was done. After coasting down hill and pushing as hard as we could from the inside to help it make it up the hills, it had come as far as it could.
The pickup was dead.
I backed it down the hill. Managing to keep on the road this time too. Called my husband to come save me and hopped out with our son to sit beside the road. I notice a few themes to my life.
It was HOT out.
The mechanic said he would drive out from town and take a look at the pickup. A neighbor drove by in his pickup and trailer, he stopped and asked if we needed anything. There are so many good people out there.
The mechanic got there diagnosed it as a fuel pump issue, realized we had a load of calves on and offered a ride to the pasture. He quickly hooked a tow rope from his pickup to ours. I wanted nothing to do with this. I feel I should mention this is all on nearly deserted gravel roads. So I said I would go take the semi. Even a fully loaded cattle pot would be easier than a pickup towing a pickup and loaded trailer. I climbed into the air-conditioned cab of the semi that had been idling patiently as it waited. After the heat of the day it felt heavenly. I looked around and realized it wasn’t the automatic semi. It was the stick shift! The one of my former epic failure.
Lessons learned the hard way are lessons learned well.
I checked to make sure it was in low range. I looked at the chart on the visor to make sure I knew where first was. My first guess would have been reverse. I have driven this semi hauling hay over the last couple of summers. The epic hay failure wasn’t the last time, just the most memorable. When you drive something three or four times a year the basics don’t come natural. I got it in gear. Didn’t kill it taking off. I was well on my way to making it the few more miles to the pasture.
Up through the gears. I did remember how to shift without the clutch. I was feeling pretty good until we got to the downhill side. With a heavy shifting load of cattle on behind thirty five miles an hour feels like sixty as I eased down the hill. The turn was at the bottom I’d have to downshift. Never my forte. Far easier to come to a complete stop and start again at first. I remembered to shift to the low range! Prove that positive punishment can be effective, if miserable, training.
Finally I made it to the pasture. Now all I needed to do was pull into the narrow driveway so the trailer could be backed across the road and into the pasture. While my husband, child, and the mechanic watched. As I slowed to make the turn at a creeping rate, I let off the clutch and the engine lugged ad nearly died.
I had forgotten to shift to low range. Here. Now that there was an audience.
Quickly shoving the clutch back in before it actually died I rectified the problem. Missed the corner post with the trailer. Left the semi sit for my husband to back into the pasture!
That was enough excitement for me for one day.
The cattle unloaded. Mechanic and husband left the trailer and towed the pickup on into town. Son and I sat waiting to be rescued with a different pickup. It was hot. I convinced my son the tank would make a good pool. It was all good. Hard learned lesson had saved me from making a complete fool of myself and the cattle were out of the hot trailer onto the good green grass where they will spend the summer being feral and fat.