Saturday, January 2, 2016

The season of hard living

Happy New Year! 

Here's hoping you've all had a wonderful Yuletide Season and are ready to hit the ground running in 2016.

Me? Busy. Everything in winter takes more time and effort. You work harder to accomplish less.

There's no getting around it, much of what cattle producers do involves physical labor. In order to  have cattle, one must have fences and buildings and corrals and stock tanks. One must be able to contain the cattle, feed, water and mineral them, gather and sort and move and manipulate and doctor and ship.

This kind of labor has a beginning, and it certainly has a middle, but it does not have an end. Well, not a good end. Because Nature. Because Reality.

Other than the brain work of planning and accounting, everything one does in the cattle business is done in nature's real world, where all of the cattle and all of the infrastructure live. The universe is a dynamic place, and nature is constantly at work with forces unimaginably larger and more powerful than anything we cleverly shod apes can bring to bear.

During the Season of Easy Living, nature is gentle and kind. For the most part. From April through October, sometimes stretching into November and even December, temperatures are mild (even when it's very hot), things are growing, and the cattle can take care of their own immediate needs for food and water. Sometimes there is drought, sometimes flood, sometimes severe thunderstorm and even tornado, but these things are generally short in duration, while shirtsleeve conditions and lack of ice make them much easier to deal with.

During the Season of Hard Living, things are different. I often think, when facing winter's hardship and toil, of the Clausewitzian dictum regarding war. In war, Carl said, everything is simple, but all the simple things are hard.

In winter, the cattle must have food, water, and a modicum of shelter. So must the cattleman. These are simple needs, but providing for them in winter is hard. Sometimes very hard.

Hard isn't the same as bad though. Hard is a test of strength, character, and perseverance. Hard is where you find yourself, the real you, the fellow who often hides behind a curtain of pomp and affectation. It's a very good thing to go cara a cara with that guy from time to time.

Hard is a boon, a very great blessing. Hard is a gift wrapped opportunity to be an active participant in life. I know dozens and dozens of guys who hit forty and joined the desk-couch bandwagon. Having met the fellow behind the curtain face to face, I know that he could do the same, take up the reclining life and be content to veg out in the radiant effluent of the idiot box, stuffing sammiches down his neck while waiting for the arrival of the bus to oblivion. He has heard that siren song. 

"I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker..."

Fortunately, I have hard to fall back on. I can't afford to lay back and grow comfortable and corpulent. Not if I want to survive the Season of Hard Living. Even in the sweltering weeks of high summer, winter's ice and snow and Arctic breath is never more than 180 days away. I can afford to laze around a bit in the Season of Easy Living, but not too much. Winter is ever present in my calculus, as is the knowledge that it's easier to stay winter fit in summer than to regain winter fitness when the snow is deep and the icy winds begin to howl.

As a bonus, there's no getting around the fact that nature's winter is beautiful and majestic. Because I was smart enough to pick the right family to be born into, and because my poor head-work and countless bad decisions have not yet killed me, I get to visit and embrace nature's reality every single day.

The Season of Hard Living does not wear me down. Far from it. The Season of Hard Living provides for an annual reforging of my soul and my humanity.
Due to operator error, this one was buried in deep snow a couple of days before Christmas.

Here's the hole it was buried in.
And the extraction tool, a.k.a. Idiot Spoon.
Red practicing her sad-eyed, "please let me in" look.
The morning sun feels good in winter.
When the days are short, the shadows are long.
Where late the red pickup was buried, nature quickly erases the evidence.
Winter trail.
With the sun's first kiss, sublimating snow leaps into the heavens.
Winter's highway.
Puffed up songbirds.
Hard working truck.
Sunrise glory.

USAF Security Squadron Huey out of Warren AFB making a fuel stop at KIBM.
Brrr. Cold iron.


  1. Nothing like winter's chill to stiffen one's backbone.

    (And freeze one's toes off!) Awesome photos Shaun!

    1. Thanks kindly Sarge. Temp rose to 37 yesterday, a veritable heat wave. Which did not mean it was good weather to overhaul the fuel system in the JD 4240, but I did it anyway.

    2. You don't have a machine shed, where you would be out of the wind, with a salamander pointed at you, for that sort of work? ( I was in my mid 30's before I found out that those big forced air kerosine space heaters are called Salamanders! I always called them, " Those big forced air kerosine space heaters!)

      I was surprised that you dug the Chevy out with a spade. Up here in Wisconsin, the grain scoop is the King of Snow Shovels. But it looks like you had some dirt to remove, as well, which grain scoops do not excell at.

      I am quite charmed by the Cow Art Piece, Licked Lick! Beauty can be found in unusual plces, if you know where to look.

      The trees frosted with ice at sunrise is one of the things that made being a deputy fun. Even more so was trees with all the limbs, branches, and twigs carrying a half inch to an inch of snow, so you are driving truly though a world of great beauty.

      Did Santa bring you a remote spot?

    3. Shop yes, salamander no. Not that it wouldn't make sense, but it would take some organizing.

      I like that little square shovel for digging snow. Over the past few years I've found I can move more snow faster by taking smaller bites.

      Beauty abounds wherever you look, so long as you have eyes to see.

      Yes on the spot. Looking forward to night calving now.

  2. 71 can be a challenge. Drive it three times a week.

    1. Yes it can. That's the route winter survival kits were designed for.