For the past four days, I have been acting ranch manager on my parent’s farm. Its been my job to take over for my dad while he and my brother were away. It is the very first time I’ve ever been in charge of the whole operation. And yes, I was nervous. My dad has about 120 head on a friend’s cornfield and has to haul water to them. Then there is another 140 on one of our hayfields, right next to a pivot of corn that had not yet been harvested. (The only thing keeping all these cow-critters in is a hot wire. So basically it is a fence made of a single line of wire attached to a battery so that it is weakly electrified.) Then there are 20 heifers and eight horses in some pens near ‘my’ house. But I told my dad I could look after the place, and that’s what I planned to do. Thankfully, my little sister was around to help me, as well.
So here’s a breakdown of what my days consisted of.
Day 1: Sunday
Make my rounds in the morning and see that all is well. Cows are in. They have plenty of water. ‘This is going to be a piece of cake’, I think to myself. Then I head back out that afternoon to check them again. Chaos. Cows are in my dad’s friend’s haybarn. The fence is broken. So my sister and I run around, chasing the cows back into the cornfield and get the fence patched together. I’m feeling bad because my dad hasn’t been away for 12 hours and the cows were already out. I head back home, thinking that this is going to be a long, long four days.
Day 2: Monday
I have to haul water today. So after doing the home chores, sister and I go and hook the trailer onto the pickup. This takes about 15 minutes, as we’ve never done it before, but we get it hooked up and get the water going into the tank. then we load the gator with wire and fiberglass fence poles and go out to make sure the fence is still standing. We stretch the wire in a few places it is a bit saggy, and re-wire the gate. Count the cows to make sure they were all still there, (they were) and head back to get the truck and trailer. Now, I haven’t pulled a trailer all that often, and the ground was already thawing and I was worried we’d get stuck in the mud with a thousand gallon water tank in the back. Luckily, we made it. So the cows were watered and everything was looking good. I park and unhook the trailer and head back to the house. On the way, I call my dad’s friend to apologize for the cows being in his barn the night before. He asked me why I didn’t fix the fence. I told him that I had, then he said that the hot wire wasn’t hot. So I turn the truck around and go back to check the battery. It still has a charge, and my sister touched the wire to check it. (Yes, it is a bit of a primitive way to test the fence, but oh well.) She says that the wire isn’t too hot, but it is working. So we drive around to the gate to check it there. Sister touches it again. Says it is weak there, as well. I’m a bit frustrated, worrying that the cows will get out again, so I reach out and touch the wire. Holy smokes! The shock almost knocks me to the ground! I decide that the fence is working fine and we go home.
Day 3: Tuesday
There are cows out in the un-harvested cornfield. Grrr… And since the corn is still standing, we couldn’t drive through the field. So I herded the cows, single file through the cornstalks, back to where they belonged. Then I gathered up some spools, fencing pliers, and a shovel, and we went across town to take down some hotwire were weren’t using anymore. It took awhile, walking through mud to take down the 1/2 mile stretch of fence. But despite the mud, all the steel posts were securely frozen in the ground and no amount of digging could free them. So sister and I settled for taking down and rolling up the wire and pulling out the fiberglass poles. Then we went home.
Day 4: Wednesday
Today is the last day. Dad will be home late this afternoon! Yah! But before he gets home, I have to hook onto the trailer and haul water again. This time, I backed right up and hooked up to the trailer on the first try. I was feeling pretty good. Until I stepped into the trailer and discovered that the five-foot-long breaker bar Dad had wedged under the tank to allow easier access to the hose had sometime rattled out and was gone. My sister and I went down the road, looking in the bar ditches for it, but couldn’t find it. I called my mother and had her call the hardware stores in town to see if anyone carried similar bars so I could buy a new one before Dad got home. Luckily, an oilrig supply store had one left. So I was feeling good again. Then I blew out a tire on the trailer. I think it would have been a good day just to go back to bed and try to start over. But I couldn’t. So I got back to my dad’s shop and jacked the trailer up and put the spare tire on. By this time, I’m not in a good mood. It doesn’t help much when I get home and find my mother looking for the keys to her truck. The keys are lost. And then I’m reminded that I was the last one to have the keys. Today just is not going my way.
Long story short, I bought a new breaker bar, eventually found the keys, and my dad and brother made it home safely and Dad is back in charge of the ranch. Last night he went with my sister and I to check the cows, and he stopped by to talk to his friend. His friend looks right at me and asked, “Did you lose a cinch? I found one on the road, and since you’re the only one who’s been hauling a horse trailer around, I thought it might be yours.” I was confident I had not lost it, so I told him it wasn’t mine. After talking a little longer, dad’s friend said to go ahead and get the cinch out of his truck since he wouldn’t use it. Dad returns with the cinch and a big grin. I sigh. It is my cinch. Though, I have no idea when it fell out of the truck, as I didn’t even know it was in the truck to begin with.
And even though I lost and broke a few things, I made it through my temporary job of power and did a fairly good job (hey, at least I didn’t lose any or the cows or break the truck!!!)
But I’m thinking that for the rest of the year, I will be fine with not being in charge… 😉