Farming and Ranching
Growing up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I spent a lot of time in farming communities. I had seen fields being plowed and seeded. I witnessed crops growing from seedlings to mature harvestable plants. Watching farmers accomplish this is something I'm pretty used to. However, I never had been a farmer myself, nor had I witnessed a farming season in the Texas Panhandle. In the past two years, that all changed. I'm far from an expert, and my experience is minimal at best, but I have learned a lot about farmers.
Farmers are the backbone of any civilization. It is as simple as this: no farmers, no food in the store. We have been pulled away from this fact as a country. Now don't come thanking me as I'm a mere apprentice, but next time you see a farmer or a rancher, thank them. Due to their back-breaking work and never-ending persistence, one can simply go to a store for food. Personally, I knew farmers and ranchers kept the shelves full, but my eyes have indeed been opened up in the past two years. They are more imperative and inexpensible than I ever thought. There are way too many people still needing this revelation. The lack of respect and appreciation for this crucial occupation in our society is a shame. Too often, rural, blue-collar workers are stereotyped as some sort of hillbilly or one with a lack of education. You even see the media going so far as to paint farmers as an enemy of some sort. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is further from the truth. These people spend their lives loving the land they farm and the animals they raise, all while feeding hungry mouths. Nonetheless, I digress from my rant. Let us talk about farming!
As I said, I'm new to witnessing farming in the Texas Panhandle. There were plenty of new things for me to observe. For one, farmers plant much later in Texas than in Pennsylvania. It makes a lot of sense, though, as there are higher temperatures and less rain. Texas farmers hope to germinate their seeds with the last of the June rains and make it through a possible dry season to the end of August or September for a final few showers. Along with that, the Panhandlers (no, not criminals, people from the Texas Panhandle) grow milo instead of corn. Milo is more drought-resistant and still produces an excellent yield. With a successful milo crop, a rancher can feed his cattle all year round.
Even the things that were daily life for a panhandler were new to me. Looking off at the horizon, one of my first times in Amarillo, I noticed something quite peculiar. A large cloud of dust rose into the air. It looked like the dust following a car going down a dirt road, only a hundred times larger. It was only as I drove closer that I realized that it was a farmer plowing his field. This dusty experience was something I had never seen before. What was more astonishing was the dust devil that formed from the howling wind. It blew off to develop into the size of a tornado, even a large tornado by my standards. It was a dose of Texas for me!
As a new farmer, I learned that farming is all about solving problems. It would be a pretty easy job if there were no conflicts. Anyone who can drive a tractor would be able to accomplish the task. However, things are rarely that easy. Even before we start, there is problem-solving going on. The plow and the drill (aka the seeder) must be in tip-top shape and running smoothly. The number of parts on both guarantees that much will be fixed and maintained.
Fixing parts can go two ways. It is either quick and easy or about as tricky as licking your elbow. Even unbolting and rebolting parts to the frame of the plow can be nearly impossible. For example, a stubborn bolt sometimes won't come free after rusting for years. Often this means taking out a hammer and whacking on the thing till the dirt loosens and the threads start to budge. Fortunately, this lets out much frustration and fixes the equipment simultaneously. It is a small example of all we go through. After all is fixed, greased, and properly functioning, is it go time.
Sam and I started together in the same field, Sam running the plow and me running the drill. Having the larger piece of equipment, Sam moved quite a bit faster. It took no time before he left me in the dust (literally). Sam had moved to another field when I broke a part on the seeder. From then on, we battled that drill. After many unsuccessful fixes and more broken parts, we found some sprockets with missing teeth. These guys were the culprits of all our problems. After some fixes and southern engineering, I could continue planting for the next several days without any issues.
It was long, exhausting workdays before we finished the several thousand acres of farming. It was a phenomenal feeling to have all those fields planted. My body ached from being bounced around all week long. However, I will say it was a blessing to spend quality time in God's creation. I was able to do some serious bird and cloud watching. I also saw some amazing sunrises and sunsets. I felt even more blessed when I could return to the field I started and see crops already standing. I have a lot to be thankful for.
A Cowboy and a Cowgirl
If you read any of my other articles, you have already heard about our ranch hands, Aaron and Faith. They are the cowboys who make the world spin round for the cattle. We appreciate all they do and the hard work they put into the ranch. It is not just the hard work they do but also the risks they take. Do I even dare to say the danger they cross? Yes, I do! They partake in a very dangerous occupation and are constantly taking high risks. Risks involve scorpions, snakes, hogs, heat, cliffs, thorn thickets, temperamental horses, misbehaving cattle, and everything in between. Their stories will put you on the edge of your seat, make you laugh, and maybe even make you cry.
Feeding the canyon is no easy feat and is one of Aarons and Faith's most critical challenges. It is not for the faint of heart to take this venture. From the moment the trek starts, this endeavor is met with the intensity of any adventure movie. The canyon is a prime example when you talk about harsh, unforgiving terrain. You must be an expert cowboy and even a survivalist as there are no nearby hospitals. One does not want to find themselves in a sticky situation in the Palo Duro canyon.
Before the sun is up, the two must gather themselves and get the humvee going. It is the only ride capable of the infamous Bull Trail; a road that drops a thousand vertical feet in a quarter of a mile! Let me tell you, I've lived in the Rockies for over six years. I've traveled dirt roads in the jungles of Haiti. I've been on the road or two that has had my blood pumping, but Bull Trial is up there with the riskiest and most dangerous. Steep and loose dirt, with a significant drop-off, it is not a typical commute to work. Fortunately, we have made it up and down the road with no casualties thus far.
Once in the canyon, the roads start to flatten out. However, it doesn't mean Aaron and Faith are in the clear. There is still the brutal heat, thorny thickets, and plenty of wild animals. For cowboys, the wild animals are as much a factor as the domesticated ones. They can cause problems whether you like it or not. For instance, the other day, Aaron found himself a scorpion. That is, he found it after the bugger had stung him multiple times on the neck. Even though the scorpion was not a species that could kill, he still took a dose of its venom. This venom in a larger dose would have caused paralysis. Talk about a stiff neck! Thankfully Aaron was okay.
Scorpions are not the only dangerous animal in the canyon. There are plenty of wild hogs as well. In a previous newsletter, I talked about the dangers of hogs and how they can tear up the land and man and beast. You do not want to turn around and find one right behind you. Unfortunately, that is what happened to the two cowboys the other day. At one of our draws, Aaron and Faith were about their business doing their chores as usual. Aaron had his back to the draw and was facing Faith. When he saw Faith's troubled face, he realized something was wrong. "Be...Behind you!" Faith exclaimed. Aaron turned around only to be face to face with a wild black hog. Fortunately, he made a mad dash to the vehicle to grab his rifle. In the nick of time, he swung around and landed a couple of shots into the hog. It was as close as one would want to be in that situation.
Not only can wild animals become a hazard, but the wild vegetation can also become a risk. A few weeks ago, the two cowboys had their issues after some cattle took off into some brush. The two, having no options, followed on their horses to round up the cattle. The horses became spooked in the thick brush and became hard to keep in control. Aaron found himself torn up from thorns in a mesquite tree. Faith putting up her arms to move a branch out of the way, bruised her wrist. Both of them were able to gain control of their horses. Being the rugged cowboys they are, they were able to complete their jobs despite their injuries.
The list of risks goes on. Ranchers and cowboys face them all the time. That is why we are always happy to see Faith and Aaron make it home safely. The fact still goes on that the job of ranching is not easy. You can tell from article to article that this is about survival. All parts, from the animals to the ranchers to the people they feed this all about survival. The rancher needs to make it alive through the risks that they take. The animals need to live healthy, happy lives to provide food. People need to eat the food because… well, do I really need to explain that? All in all, remember to thank a rancher next time you see one. They do so much to feed the hungry mouths across our country.
TriTails is doing well. We are growing and have some exciting news to share shortly... Stay tuned for updates along the way!
You can feel free to disregard this part of the newsletter, but we always need prayers. Please do not think we are asking you to only pray for us but rather just add these things to the things you already pray for. We really appreciate and believe in this.
- We are in need of a good rain shower.
- TriTails starting their wholesale operation.
Thank You so much, and don’t hesitate to let us know if we can pray for you.