Monday, February 23, 2015

Fortunate Son

Whew! A few moments without a fire to put out. I gotta figure out a way to arrange my emergencies if I'm gonna be a successful blogger.

A couple of days ago as I checked cows on the north unit I paused to watch as a transporter loaded up with crude from one of the wells on the ranch. As the oil flowed into the truck it occurred to me that I'm a fortunate son.
As the pump jack nods up and down a transporter fills with crude oil.
Holy sierra-hotel-india-tango! You got oil? Of course you're a fortunate son!

Well, yeah, kinda-sorta. But not 'zactly.

It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no oil-baron's son.

When the oil came in here in the Panhandle -- just after the war -- there was a predictable boom. The first producing well was on the EJE, and over the years there have been as many as six of them pumping. But..., it ain't millionaire oil. It's hardscrabble oil. Profitable, but not that profitable. All together in a good year the income is enough to pay the land taxes with enough left over to make a dent in the income tax it generates.

Not great, but better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

And that's actually a perfect state of affairs. I suspect that millionaire money would kill me deader than a hammer.

I'm doubly fortunate there.

Doubly fortunate with the oil, I'm infinitely fortunate in all else. I did not do one single thing to deserve my good fortune.

On February 20 I fixed fence in shirtsleeves in the morning.

It was a beautiful out; temps in the mid-40's, sunshine, almost no wind. A perfect morning to catch up with a chore that had been evading me since the fall.

The job was to add a fourth wire to an internal fence line at the home place. The fence runs north and south and is a mile long. It divides former farm ground (planted back to grass in 1985 or so) from native prairie.

In one of my first experiences with fixin' fence, my grandpa Wilbur and I rebuilt this particular fence back in about 1970. We left a few still-stout posts in place as well as two of the wires. Those posts and wires were original to the place and built by my great-grandfather Evert in about 1900. They're still there, which is kinda neat.

Dad and Great Grandpa Evert in front of the old shop, just before the war.
Evert and his brothers came to Kimball County in the late 1800's. They farmed and ranched and raised families. They also built and founded the local livestock auction.

Great Grandma Maude, age 80, in her prairie flower garden, EJE Ranch, 1958.
Evert and Maude had 13 children. 10 survived to adulthood.

My future grandparents, Wilbur and Helen, with three sisters-in-law, just before the war.
There's a good chance that my obstreperous nature comes directly from Grandpa.
Grandpa, me, and my first hoss, ol' Futureglue.
Same outing as above, Wilbur on the left with Bob Sandridge, Clifford Olson and brother Dorance Evertson. The depression was ending and war was looming and these young fellows had the world by the ass.
Mom and Dad and four (of six) kids. Summer picnic early 1960's.
So yeah, fortunate son, grandson, great-grandson.

A few thoughts on the song.

I was born to wave the flag. I'm Red, White and Blue.

Compared to many, I was born with a silver pitchfork in my hand. When the taxman comes to the door, I pay up.

One day a lot of years ago, as I was poised to leave the navy, I had a conversation with the Command Master Chief. He urged me to stay in, and introduced me to the real American perspective on giving back. I argued that I'd done enough, and that it was someone else's turn. "Let those flag-burners have a shot," I said.

"It ain't about them," he said, "It's about you."

He also opined that I'd not, in fact, done enough.

When you ask 'em how much should we give...

Sorry, Fogerty, the answer's always been, and will always be,

More, more, more.


  1. Those who know, know...
    I must say my Cowman built the most beautiful fences! LOL... high and tight has a whole noth'r meaning in cow country.
    Love the ol family pictures.

    1. Some fences are beautiful. It takes a real artist to build a pretty and useful fence. I mostly putter around in the "crayon and big chief tablet" realm when it comes to fence-as-art. My fences hold cows though. Usually. Mostly.

      I look at some of those old images and long for a time machine.

  2. Great post Shaun. Men of the land, the backbone of this country.

    In my book, you do one hitch, you serve honorably, you've done enough.

    But that's just me.

    1. Thanks Sarge. I didn't write that one very well. The Master Chief was mainly saying that there's only one way to wipe the debt clean. Those who don't fall in service can basically never zero out the balance they owe for having the luck to be born American. Giving back isn't limited, of course, to military service.

      I got out after my talk with the CMC, then came back in a few months later. About two years later I went to the Master Chief's retirement. "Surprised to see me back?" I asked. "No," he said. Man of few words, but they were mostly good words.

  3. Feedin' & fuelin' the country is all kinds of honorable. CMC was just spoutin' the Navy party line. I'm sure he didn't say it to all the guys, just the ones that he considered worthy of staying in. Consider it a compliment. I had plenty of sailors that I was glad to see them go.