Friday, May 26, 2017

Here's what you owe the fallen

And so it begins. Memorial Day coincides with the beginning of summer. Here in Kimball the kids have been released from scholastic durance vile and they're diving headlong into the warmth of sunlight and freedom. I remember what that felt like, and as I look at the clusters of running, biking, adventuring boys and girls I can't help but smile and feel good.


I can turn on a picture show in my head and review each and every one of the fallen men and women who I actually laid my hands on. There are so many of them!

The weight of those lost lives has been a hard, hard burden to bear. I'm very fortunate, though, for I have lived long enough now to have worked through my often self-centered grief and emerge with clear eyes and what I believe to be the proper perspective for a sovereign citizen of these United States. Perhaps I am on the cusp of attaining wisdom.


Here’s what you owe to the fallen.

Memorial Day will be observed on Monday, May 29. This is a day set aside to honor those Americans who have fallen in service to their country. To date, more than 1,196,541 have fallen during war time, and some tens of thousands during peacetime.

What do you owe these men and women?

First of all, you must recognize that the debt you owe is a debt which can only be settled in kind. Those men and women gave every single thing they had, and every single thing they could ever have, to their nation. Only those who also fall in service can fully retire their debt.

You owe them that understanding.

Secondly, you need to understand what they fell in service of. No American service member has ever fought for a king, or for the government, or for congress. No American serviceman has ever fought for their state or their town or their friends and neighbors or even for their family. A sincere desire to serve and protect these things -- with the exception of a king, obviously -- was certainly a major factor in every service member's decision to serve. But those things are not what they served.

What all American service members have always formally and officially served are the principles and ideas and ideals that define our nation. American service members have always sworn an oath of service, and it has never been to our geographical or political nation. The oath has always been to something much larger than population and geography.

The first American oath of service was part of the act which created the Continental Army on June 14, 1775 (exactly two years before the US Flag was adopted -- a bit of off-topic historical trivia).

In this first oath a soldier swore to "bind myself" to the rules and regulations "as are, or shall be, established for the government of the said Army." Though not explicitly stated in the oath, these men were aligning themselves with the effort to overthrow the rule of a tyrant monarch and establish a nation based on the principle that all men are created equal and endowed with unalienable rights which transcend human governance.

These principles were formally established and published for the world to know on July 4, 1776.

The original oath was replaced by Section 3, Article 1, of the Articles of War approved by Congress on 20 September 1776:

"I _____ swear (or affirm as the case may be) to be trued to the United States of America, and to serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies opposers whatsoever; and to observe and obey the orders of the Continental Congress, and the orders of the Generals and officers set over me by them."

In swearing to be "trued to the United States of America" these men were swearing allegiance to to the principles enumerated in the Declaration of Independence.

Since 1789 each service member has sworn an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, which enumerates and codifies the principles and ideas upon which our nation is formed. The first oath under the Constitution was approved by Act of Congress on September 29, 1789. This oath applied to all commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers and privates in the service of the United States.

"I, _____, do solemnly swear or affirm (as the case may be) that I will support the constitution of the United States. I, _____, do solemnly swear or affirm (as the case may be) to bear true allegiance to the United States of America, and to serve them honestly and faithfully, against all their enemies or opposers whatsoever, and to observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States of America, and the orders of the officers appointed over me."

Although the wording has changed somewhat over the years, the core of the oath remains the same; support and defense of the Constitution of the United States, true faith and allegiance to the nation, and to obey the lawful orders of the President and military superiors.

"I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

"I, _____, having been appointed an solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God."

This then is the reality. America’s fighting men and women have not and do not fight for you as an individual. They have not and do not fight for your freedom or to keep you safe. Those things are for each individual sovereign American citizen to preserve. America’s fighting men and women fight to support and defend the Constitution, which codifies the heart of our nation -- her principles and her ideals.

Therefore, to America’s fallen, you owe the responsibility to understand what they actually fell in service of.

You owe them that.

You must also understand that no American service member has ever fallen in vain, nor were any their deaths meaningless. They fell in defense of the Constitution, the codified embodiment of this nation’s principles and ideals, which a fallen Commander In Chief (can you figure out which one?) called the last, best hope of Earth. You owe them that understanding.

You owe them that.

You owe them the effort of understanding and thinking deeply about what America is in fact and in reality. You owe them to be the best and most principled American you can be. You owe them to do what another fallen Commander In Chief once famously suggested, to ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.

You owe them that.

You also owe the fallen this. You must do your best to practice the First Principle of our Nation in all of your affairs. You must embrace and practice the self-evident truth that all men are created equal and endowed with unalienable natural rights. You must understand that the fallen were men and women just like you, not better human beings, not worse human beings, but equal to you as you are equal to them. Only in this way can you gain a bit of understanding as to the magnitude of their sacrifice.

You owe them that.

You must understand that the sacrifice of the fallen is part of the price paid to give you title, free and clear, to the blessings of Liberty. You must understand that this gift is above any mortal gift bestowed by any tribe or government throughout the long history of mankind. You must understand that the government of the United States does not give you this gift either, that the government is formally constrained from interfering with or usurping your unalienable natural rights. You must understand that no, you don't have a special deal, and no, you don't deserve anything above and beyond the blessing you already own. This understanding you owe to the fallen.

Finally, you must live your life. You must embrace the joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies, of the life you have. You must do this because the fallen cannot, because they sacrificed every single thing they had to preserve and protect and support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

These things you owe the fallen.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Coming up roses

Yesterday it was primroses...

Today wild prairie roses.

Most prairie roses, which are quite common shrubs out in the prairie, have pink blossoms.

This one has buttery yellow blossoms.

The lore is that my great-grandmother Maude

No slouch of a gardener

Transplanted this one, which started out pink-blossomed but became yellow-blossomed.

Whether this sis true or not I have no idea. It's always a pretty plant though, and it reliably produces abundant flowers at or around Memorial Day.


This morning the calf who couldn't get up was bright and perky. When I appeared with her bottle she began to lick her lips, and as I stood close to her she tried to suckle my pants leg. It's always such an endearing feeling to see that spark of recognition. You know the calf is only interested in milk but you can't help but feel that it "likes" you.

I put her in her sling and fed her the bottle, which she took with great enthusiasm. She also seemed to be stronger in her legs, and seemed to be trying to figure out how to walk. Furthermore, as she looked around she seemed to recognize her mama and seemed to be trying to figure out how to walk over and nurse.

Of course those are just my impressions, flavored with anthropomorphization and wishes.

I left her in the sling and went to check cows. When I returned the rope holding the left front of the sling had come untied, leaving the calf unsupported up front.

Nevertheless, she was standing up.

That was a very good sign. I was quite sure that the only thing holding her up was the back of the sling, but I decided to see if my certainty would be supported by evidence. If I loosened the back of the sling and she tumbled to the ground, my hypothesis would be proved. If, on the other hand, she was able to stand, my hypothesis would be falsified.

Ever so slowly and quietly I loosened the remaining ropes and let the sling fall to the ground.

And little 768 remained standing.

Hard to describe how good that felt.

She still can't walk without falling down, and I don't think she can get up by herself yet. But I'm starting to think she'll be able to do those things on her own, and perhaps sooner than I'd like to hope.

I think her "fan club" and their thoughts and prayers have been an important factor.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Sling load

We used to do sling loads in the Sea King. Mostly drones, but occasionally cargo. It was usually fun, always tricky, and occasionally a bit, er, risky.

But that was a long time ago.

This week I've been slinging the calf who can't get up on her own.

Today she seems to be working harder to get up on her own, and she seems to be trying to stand and even walk a bit when she's in the sling. But she doesn't have it figured out yet.

I think we may be making progress but it's hard to tell.

I'm beginning to think she's got more of a left-side deficit and a back end deficit, but again, it's hard to tell.

After a week of cool, wet weather it's sunshiny and warm today. The cool and wet are forecast to return tomorrow through Sunday, with perhaps a return to pleasant weather on Memorial Day.

The cold and wet may have prompted a dove to nest on the tractor. I think she gave up on that idea as the nest seems abandoned.

Starting to see a lot of primroses.

And some gooses!

Hope you all are having a fine day.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

It ain't all moo-cows and mansions

Mostly, sure.

But there are other things too.

The little calf who can't get up continues to hold her own. When I finished giving her her bottle this morning she tried really hard to get up and have some more, which is a good sign. She seems to be a bit stronger and a bit more coordinated today, but that might just be wishful thinking on my part. We'll keep on keepin' on.

The other calves were enjoying breakfast in the pasture this morning. They like salads and milkshakes.

Work on the plan for the mansion continues apace. I'm reliably informed that I am acting as my own general contractor, which is allegedly a deucedly hard job. Should save myself some coin in the end, and I expect to see a large kickback!

Now then, on with the show.

There was a Twin Bonanza on the ramp at Joint Base Kimball/NAS PrairieAdventure this morning.

I've always been a sucker for the Beech 50, particularly the B50. They just do it for me.

This one came off the line at Wichita in March, 1954.

It's a very pretty airplane and seems to be well used and well cared for.

It's a big airplane for a light twin, sits tall on trike undercarriage and weighs in at 4,000 lbs empty and 6,500 gross.

It's powered by a pair of Lycoming GO-435 air cooled, horizontally opposed six bangers making about 240 hp a side and driving three-bladed Hartzell props.

Not a speed demon, doesn't carry a huge load, fairly short legs, but a robust and reliable steed.

Now what's that makeup mirror for?

Yeah, that one.

Oh yeah...

Have a great Beechcraft day!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Helmet fire

The little calf who can't get up is pretty much the same today. She tries to get up, and she acts like she wants to get up, but she can't. It's very frustrating. Other than the inability to get up, she seems perfectly healthy and normal.

Well, we'll just keep trying for as long as we can.


Last week I mentioned my plan to build a guest home. I had the cart rather before the horse in stating that I had a "plan." What I actually had was an idea. It was a very good idea last week, and it looks even better this week. But an idea is not a plan.

That's where the helmet fire comes in.
All I gotta do is figure out how to build and outfit a house, and then collect money from people who want to pay to stay in the house. How hard could it be?

From the start I've been sold on the idea of using a steel "Q" or Quonset-style structure. There are a lot of advantages in cost and strength and durability. And if done right it would be eye-catching, quirky, and aesthetically pleasing. It would be the kind of home that people would be attracted to and want to spend some time in.

Done wrong, it would be a hideous eye sore.

So I've been working on end wall design and floor plans. This is tricky as I'm not an architect or engineer or designer. But I am making some progress, and I think I've found a good local talent to assist with some of the nuts and bolts.

There are so many details! The steel building is nothing. It's well designed and precision engineered and will go together seamlessly and with minimal time and effort. And that's a big plus.

Before it goes up, though, it has to have a place to go. I've got the location figured out, so that's no worry. But I have to decide on a foundation. Do I want a slab, crawl space, or full basement? Should be simple, no? I'm pretty sure I want a full basement. The incremental cost is pretty small. But I find myself dithering. And I really do have to pick an option and pull the trigger, because I can't get the water and septic in until I decide. Why does this seem so hard?

As for the living space, I'm looking at master bedroom/bath across one end of the building. This will be the northwest exposure, and the end wall will be mostly windows to serve up a panoramic view. The rest of the interior will feature a central kitchen, a dining room/family room on the northeast, paired bedrooms with a bath on the southwest, and a large living room/library across the southeast end, again with panoramic windows. A spiral stair will lead to a loft bedroom and bath above the kitchen.

I'm planning on high efficiency central heating and air, with gas heat and hot water, and a backup whole house generator.

I'm still waiting on bids for the frameout of the interior, but I've got good numbers on everything else, and they're not as eye-watering as I feared. For purposes of due diligence, I did a bit of shopping for modular and new-build and those numbers were really eye watering.

So the build plan is starting to come together, and the helmet fire is starting to die down a bit. But I can already tell that the finish work, fittings, appliances, furnishings, paint and wall treatments, fabrics, kitchen equipment, entertainment, wi-fi................

I feel another helmet fire coming on.

Blast from the past: September 11, 2010

Driving westbound on CR28 toward the ranch the other day and I spied a snake on the road. Snakes like to sun themselves on the warm hardtop, but it's not a good deal for them. I've seen half a dozen bull snakes dead in the same area this year, all victims of traffic.
Prairie Rattlesnake, Crotalus viridis viridis. That slight bulge a third of the 
way back from the head may be a former rodent.

Don't like to see flat snakes. Always seems a waste to me. But I'm in the minority. Anyway, I stopped to see if the snake had been hit. It hadn't, and it was a rattlesnake.

When I find 'em alive on the road I move them into the ditch. Bull snakes usually move themselves and they're usually grumpy about it.

Rattlesnakes, on the other hand, coil up defensively. I usually scoop 'em up with a shovel and put 'em in the ditch. They're usually fairly quiet about the whole deal, and rarely strike at the shovel.
Coiled up and already testy.

I hopped out of the pickup and reached for the shovel I always carry in the back. Except it wasn't there. I'd taken it out the day before and hadn't put it back yet.

Necessity being the mother of invention, I pulled the sectional jack handle out from under the seat and slotted it together. Seven feet long and a little wobbly but it did the trick. This snake was highly irritated, though, and clearly wanted to bite me by the time I placed him in the ditch. 

But he didn't end up flat, at least not there and then. Why do I do this? Just stubborn and contrary I guess.
Home, home in the ditch.

Sunday, May 21, 2017


The little calf that can't get up is hanging in there.

Before I give a patient report, let's do this...

In general we expect our cattle to be healthy. We spend a lot of time, effort and cash doing common sense things to ensure they stay that way. When we buy cattle we buy fit, healthy ones. When we choose to keep female calves back to develop into herd cows we pick the ones that will best fit into our system. We vaccinate all of our cattle against typical cow diseases, medicate them to eradicate parasites and fend off flies and other insects, make sure they are well fed and are supplemented with appropriate vitamins and minerals, and make sure they have easy access to fresh, clean water. We keep them outside year round -- which is the environment they are evolved and best suited for.

The type of cattle we raise are crossbred or composite cattle. This produces animals with strong heterosis or hybrid vigor. Such animals are less prone to developing genetic disorders and have strong, competent immune systems. When they happen to catch the cow version of a cold or flu bug, their immune system is able to shrug is off more quickly than an animal with less heterosis.

Starting with healthy and competent cattle, working hard to provide excellent nutrition and prevent disease, and breeding for calving ease, soundness and vigor, these are the things we do to keep our costs as low as is feasible and our profits high enough to keep the ranch cash flowing and in business.

We do see illness and injury in our cattle from time to time. When that happens we work with our vet to cure illness and heal injury to the extent possible within the constraints of economic feasibility. Profit and loss have to drive the process because we want to survive and thrive as a ranch. But we also have a very real responsibility to the livestock we own and the consumers we feed. We could cut corners and make more profit, but then we wouldn't deserve to survive and we know it.

Treating illness and injury in our cattle is always a balancing act, and it's a bit more tricky than you might imagine. The cattle can't verbalize, and as prey animals, they instinctively hide signs of illness or injury. Since they can't talk, they can't tell us how they feel or what hurts. We have to learn to pick up non-verbal indications. We end up being pretty good at it, too.

Another tricky part is that there's no "health care delivery system" for livestock. There are no hospitals or labs or financial management schemes as in human medicine. If money is no object, then yes, you can access similar resources. But money is important, and there are no insurance companies or government programs (which in human medicine are increasingly the same thing) to pick up the tab. You have to pay for those things out of your profits. On the plus side, there is none of the bureaucratic cost inflation endemic to human medicine, so prices are extremely low in comparison. On the other hand, if you spend more on health care than the animal can bring in profit, you lose money.

So you have to be ever aware your overall financial situation and have a very good idea what you can afford to spend on health care before making decisions.

And now, back to the calf in question.

She could have a congenital disorder. Unlikely, but not out of the question.

She could have sustained a permanent spinal or nerve injury. Again, unlikely but possible.

She may have had a viral or bacterial infection which caused a permanent weakness and discoordination.

In any of those three cases she will not recover.

She could have sustained a temporary spinal or nerve injury. 

She could have had a viral or bacterial infection which caused a temporary weakness and discoordination.

She could have had a profound but temporary metabolic imbalance.

She could have had a profound but temporary nutritional imbalance.

In any of these last four cases, she may recover. If she develops badly infected pressure sores or becomes septic or develops fulminant pneumonia during the recovery process, she will be extremely unlikely to survive.

At present all we can do is keep her fed and hydrated, warm and dry, and keep working with her to see if she can get up and start getting about. And that's what we're going to do.

This morning she had moved, on her own, about 10-12 feet from where I left her last night. I don't think she got up, but rather pushed herself along the ground in trying to get up. She also came a lot closer to being able to stand on her own. She's still weak and with little real coordination in the back legs, but she has made noticeable improvement since yesterday.

Only time will tell. I'm not going to get too optimistic, but she seems to be improving slightly and she's otherwise very healthy. If any calf can survive this thing this is the one.

Looking better and taking a bottle.

You're on the internet!

Saturday, May 20, 2017


As you all know, I'm probably one of the most smartest, most competentest ranchers ever to walk the face of good ol' mama earth.

I know you all know this because I go to great pains in crafting this blog to ensure that the message of my overwhelming brilliance and unparalleled mastery of everything comes first, last, and always.

This morning I was faced with the fact that 80 cows and 80 calves were on the wrong side of a fence. To make them magically appear on the correct side of the fence, all I had to do was open a gate and chivy them through it. I had to do it quickly though, because they were very close to the gate and headed in the right direction. If they found the gate open they'd stroll right on through. If they found the gate closed, they wouldn't care at all. They would, however, keep grazing along, right past the gate, and would soon be headed in the wrong direction. No disaster there, but it would take additional time and effort, and I had other things I should be doing.

To further set the scene, there was a good bit of snow on the ground. And the ground beneath the snow was sodden and saturated from the precipitation of the last few days.

Anyway, I pulled up in my trusty pickup and baled out to open the gate. I left the engine running and slapped the stickshift out of gear as I baled.

As I opened the gate I was astonished to see my pickup driving itself merrily along in the direction I had left it pointing. I stood there dumbfounded as it chugged through a windbreak, right between a pair of junipers.

And then it chugged right through a three-strand barbed wire fence.

And kept going.

About 250 yards away was another fence, this one a bit more substantial. On the other side of the fence was a field of winter wheat.

I finally fought through my gobsmackedness and decided to take action.

"Feets," I yelled, "don't fail me now!"

I fairly flew across the snow covered prairie and reached the pickup before it could negotiate a second fence. Dodged a serious bullet there, for had the pickup ended up in that saturated, soft wheat ground it would have been a nightmare.

I turned around and saw that most of the cows and calves were passing through the opened gate as well as the gap in the now torn-down fence. They really seemed to appreciate my efforts to widen the path for them, particularly in light of the sodden ground and all.

An hour later I'd repaired the fence and closed the gate. The repair is only temporary; I'll have to wait for the ground to dry up a bit to fix it correctly. With the fence fixed I was able to get on with my daily chores, serenely confident in my absolute mastery of, well, everything.


The calf that couldn't get up was still down this morning. It's a puzzling and vexing problem. She's completely bright and alert and seemingly content. She's not sick. She's well nourished and well hydrated, thanks to feeding via the stomach tube. But she can't get up. She seems to have little control of her back legs, and there's no obvious reason why.

Her mom is very attentive, which is good. She's clearly trying to encourage the calf to get up and nurse. And the calf is clearly trying.

Speaking of nursing, the calf hasn't done so for two days, but the cow's udder has, of course, gone on making milk. In addition to being concerned about the well being of her calf, the cow is also a bit uncomfortable at having and udder full of unsuckled milk.

So we've got a calf that can't nurse but needs milk, and a cow that needs to be nursed but can't be suckled. What to do?

I put the cow in the chute and milked her out. She produced a bit more than a gallon, and I probably could have got twice that without half trying. I tubed the calf and gave her a half-gallon and put the rest in the fridge.

Then I rigged up a sling to lift the calf and see if she could stand on her own with just a bit of assistance. She tried really hard but just couldn't get her back legs to work right. She can move them but just seems to lack coordination and strength.

That's not a very encouraging sign. Nevertheless, I'll keep feeding her and slinging her and we'll see if she makes any progress. If she does, that'll be wonderful. But if she doesn't, the prognosis is grim. If she doesn't get up and down and scamper around and do all the normal calf stuff she'll end up with pressure sores and pneumonia, and that'll be the end of her.

I'll keep doing what I can for as long as it makes sense and as long as she doesn't begin to suffer. But the reality of the situation is that if she can't get up and get about she's just not going to survive.


We're very nearly done with calving. Three cows to go, and one of those looked like she was giving serious consideration to having her calf today. I think she changed her mind though.

The downy paintbrush and fringed sagewort are beautiful.