This column was originally published June 18, 2014

Handling yearlings consists mostly of a using a technique known as “winging it” which is essentially carrying out a series of audibles. The problem I have with my Hubs calling an audible is that he calls them inside his head where nobody else can hear them.

For those of you who may be like I used to be and don’t know what the heck an “audible” is, it’s a term for calling a new tactic that’s usually a series of codes hollered among men. Audibles are normally affiliated with football, but they occur around here all the time. The only difference between the football version and the rancher version is that most of my husband’s audibles are carried out with hand gestures unless he and I are dealing with our yearlings.  With yearlings, plans fail so fast that there’s not enough time for him to confuse me with a hand gesture, so he’ll just run around while I stand there asking myself out loud, “What is he’s doing?”

Our last wreck happened over Memorial Day weekend—the weekend when LOTS of people visit the freshly groomed cemetery to pay respects to lost loved ones. We got a call about a yearling being out and when we found her, she was lollygagging in the cemetery that borders our yearling pasture.

I was lined out to hide behind a tree unless she came my way, and then try to turn her back towards the fence. Since yearlings don’t cotton to easy plans, she didn’t feel like jumping back through the low fence she’d found, so I had to come out of hiding and turn her back, but loping back and forth through the cemetery was more her style.

Let me just clear up your burning curiosity and say that there is NO WAY to delicately chase and cut off a yearling on a high lope around headstones.  Cow and I tangoed briefly before getting slowed down by too many headstones and she got by. More running, shin-meets-headstone dodging , and zigzagging ensued before my husband felt compelled to share his new audible with me: “STOP!” (Yay!) His next audible was encouraging the yearling to exit through the cemetery gates according to his actions.

After accomplishing phase one of dealing with a yearling that got out, the next audible was husband-and-jeep gunning it in high gear through the ditch to turn the cow toward the nearest opening leading back home—the dirt-filled autogate with cable stretched across. I took the initiative to lag behind on foot in case she got by the jeep. Right at the gate, the renters’ barking dogs nearly caused the next failed audible. The displeasure followed by a scolding to get the dogs back inside was quite audible—for half a mile away at least, but the cow went in.

For most ranchers, cursing is the go-to reaction when plan A fails to get a cow back in. The general rule is to try to work with them to get them in, but the minute a cow figures out she can outrun man or woman, every attempt gets harder and each plan change goes unannounced.

It’s when things go awry and I can hear a slew of bad words over a failed plan that I wish he would be inaudible.

© 2014 Amy Kirk


Dirt Roads

by Amy on August 17, 2015


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Heaven Is For Real

by Amy on August 10, 2015



A New Purpose For A Plain Old Rock

by Amy on August 8, 2015


 Every ranch kid (and ranch wife) has picked his or her share of rocks out of a hayfield


and I’m guessing most of those kids probably have no interest in picking up any rock for the fun of it, doing any rock hunting, or collecting rocks. We still drive past the rock piles where our kids had to dump the rocks they picked on summer days after a field was hayed.


I consider them our kids’ pillars of character building.


I’m not a rock hound but I’ve been known to pick up a rock now and then, while on an outdoor adventure. Not too long ago I learned about a new purpose for ordinary rocks from my dear friend Jane Green.

Jane Green

Jane is a farmwife, retired teacher and author/columnist who turns plain old rocks into what she calls “God Rocks.”

It all started one day while she was walking down the road near her farm. A couple of unusual rocks caught her eye and one looked like it had been cut into slices. Jane picked them up and hung onto them. For some reason she felt she needed to keep them so she washed them up when she got home and set them in her windowsill. Around the same time a couple of her friends were struggling with health issues and she didn’t know what she could do to help them. When she mentioned to her sister about her unusually smooth cut rock, her sister suggested writing a message on them. Jane knew right then what to do with the rocks she found and what to do for her friends. She wrote down her favorite Bible verse on the rocks and gave them to her friends needing support: Psalm 18:2.

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

(New International Version)

She has since given her rocks out to people needing encouragement or comfort. Not long after first meeting Jane, I received a “God Rock” from her in the mail, which sits on a shelf above my washing machine and dryer.


It’s my daily reminder of always having a dear friend who cares about and supports me, and that the Lord will always be my rock; the foundation of my life. I have since copied Jane’s gesture when I don’t know what else to do for people I’m concerned about.


I’ve kept a jar of neat-looking river rocks I found and kept from a family trip to Montana and now I give them out as “God Rocks” to people I feel need comfort and encouragement. I hope Jane’s story inspires you to look at ordinary rocks differently and pick one up. Use them as a wonderful, thoughtful gift that will remind someone how much you care about them and that the Lord can be their rock too.


We Are The Tree

by Amy on August 3, 2015



Ag Men and Their Tractors

by Amy on July 22, 2015


This column was originally published February 5, 2014

Just the mention of the word “tractor” or anything tractor-related piques men’s interest into lengthy conversations. The kind of conversations that allow wives enough time to get their shopping done alone without being rushed.

Men-of-the-tractor are like Southerners and their college football; they’re serious about their machines and oftentimes proudly wear their tractor manufacturer’s colors. If farmers and ranchers aren’t in their tractor working, they’re maintenancing them, buying things for them, showing them off (if it’s one they restored), dragging their wives to dealerships just to look at them, telling stories about them, occasionally cursing them, or talking shop about them.

Last windrow

What farm and ranch women don’t realize about the tractor dealerships they often get dragged to is that these businesses can serve as a very convenient and free playland for husbands on those consolidated husband-and-wife shopping trips when grocery store and department store shopping are necessary. Farm machinery dealerships are always happy to see tractor men and will give them lots of attention. Dealerships also carry parts and implements to keep tractor men occupied looking around and on special days, some dealerships will even feed husbands complimentary cookies and coffee. Ag men can wile away time waiting on their wives by looking at, trying out (aka playing with), talking about, and asking questions about tractors.

pulling the V rake with the 656 North of Pringle

Access to tractors, implements, and related merchandise curbs boredom and grumbling about wives’ lengthy shopping stops.  Such businesses are a great place for men to go who aren’t fond of crowds, shopping beyond five minutes, shopping-and-comparing, or having patience. A non-shopper or non-crowd man is much happier and content waiting on his wife if he’s got tractors he can look at or talk about. The conversations men have about tractors lead to talking about the tractor they’re restoring or currently own, tractor manufacturer comparisons, faults, and of course, men eventually discuss the tractors they remember using growing up that their fathers had.

Men who have been exposed to a tractor at any point in their life I consider to be connoisseurs. Tractor men seem to know everything about all tractors, with their M’s and A’s, H’s, and four-digit numbered tractors. And that’s not including the year of each make and model. Such conversations sound like baby gurgling noises to me, but having been exposed to numerous tractor conversations, I realize men-of-the-tractor speak the same language. One guy will nod in understanding or agreement then reply using the same alphabet and language.

What I’ve noticed about these fine pieces of machinery is that they were no doubt invented by men, for men because all tractor operating instructions are designed with men in mind. There are no words to describe how to operate these machines because all tractor companies clearly mark silhouettes of turtles and rabbits by the lever to indicate “slow” and “fast.” Manufacturers use these simple operating instructions because men prefer brevity and simplicity—which might explain why men don’t understand women as easily. The only reason instruction manuals are provided is because they are a last resort in problem solving issues. From what I’ve observed, ag men enjoy problem-solving and figuring things out for themselves and an operator’s manual is the last thing on their mind when breakdowns occur.

My knowledge of tractors includes the ones I know I can get to start and operate. It’s a good thing tractor companies don’t make operator manuals for women because my husband probably wouldn’t like seeing me take a sledgehammer to any of his tractors.

© Amy Kirk 2014



by Amy on July 20, 2015



Somebody’s Blessing

by Amy on July 15, 2015



Keep Going

by Amy on July 1, 2015




This column was originally published October 9, 2013

One of the most important virtues of ranching is having contortionist-like flexibility (metaphorically, but physical flexibility does come in handy at times). Flexibility is required when a major part of one’s life involves managing numerous animals. They can get out, knock important water tank parts loose or break stuff off that’s needed to ensure they have water, which all has to be taken care of immediately.

When it comes to a lifestyle that revolves around animals, scheduling in extra time helps in the prevention of cancelling plans because cows are just animals doing what animals do: mess up plans. Whether arrangements are made for leisure and enjoyment, appointments are scheduled, meetings are set, or kids’ sporting events are anticipated, it does not matter, animals—especially in large numbers—have a way of sensing plans that don’t pertain to them. We may think we’ve experienced every kind of cow-related setback, but they continue to show us new ways to tamper with our plans. Cows get possessive or jealous of us similar to the way dogs get mad and make a mess of things when left alone too long. The only difference is that cows do their thing right before we carry out our plans so we run late or have to cancel.

For families like us who have a cow herd and no extended family or friends close by or hired help to oversee things when we’re gone, the smart thing to do is to schedule activities with a wide margin for extra time beforehand. Remembering is the problem. Expecting setbacks and the possibility of encountering problems has always been helpful in making any plans. Many of ours have had to be canceled completely on account of getting waylaid by cows, but other times we’ve been lucky and just showed up late.

If I had a dollar for every plan, meeting, appointment, fun event, or date with girlfriends I’ve had to scratch or attend late on account of problems regarding livestock, I would have enough money for a new place with good fences, top of the line equipment and a hired man. More than once we’ve had to skip church or go to the late service. I have probably missed more meetings than I’ve attended and have showed up late to pick up kids from practice so much that scheduling setback time is becoming habit-forming. I definitely don’t plan anything for the first six weeks of calving season and after that I check with my husband first before making any committments.

Just to verify, I am not the only ranch woman who experiences such lifestyle problems. Other ranch wives and I have jokingly exchanged different plans we’ve had to cancel or show up late for because of cows. We’ve found ourselves gathering cows out of someone’s yard instead of attending a wedding ceremony, fixing fences and asking friends or family to pick up our kids from school, or pushing cows home spur of the moment and missing a class we paid money to participate in, and the list goes on.

I have spotlighted the negative aspects of having to cancel plans on account of cows, but their antics have come in handy when I would rather be messing with cows than go to a meeting or appointment I wasn’t excited about to begin with.

© Amy Kirk 2013