Livin’ on the Edge

Ranch work isn’t as life threatening as say, working on an Alaskan king crab fishing boat but the way my husband and I go about getting our work done could be considered dangerous.
We’ve become somewhat desensitized to the risks we take. We put the thought of consequences we could suffer later out of our mind, whether that would be the next day or in ten years.
My husband and I avoid wasting anything and I hate to waste perfectly good muscles. He and I frequently test our body’s limits on lifting and carrying capacity while doing certain chores and tasks. Carrying and putting boxes of frozen processed beef into the freezer isn’t back friendly, nor is heaving heavy square bales over our heads or loading galvanized tanks onto the flatbed trailer. My back may get all bent out of shape but I tell myself at least my arms look “flabless” from all that lifting and that sore muscles just mean I haven’t gotten lazy yet. Call me weird but feeling stiff and sore is gratifying.
Hauling water can be somewhat of a hazard when using an old pickup box for a trailer that doesn’t have trailer lights. I have to drive slowly and take my time, which is not my preferred driving style, but I’ve had the best thoughts, ideas and conversations with myself while being forced to drive slowly. Overall, the task has made me appreciate good wells, springs, abundant water resources and working trailer lights.
During the winter, packing five gallon buckets of feed down our steep, rickety barn steps requires taking one’s time to avoid breaking a leg. Having to slow down is an effort for me so when I get impatient carrying buckets one at a time down the steps, I tell myself to consider it just a little work break.
Haying can also be hazardous. My husband always pushes to get bales off the hayfield soon after baling, especially square bales. When thunderclouds start to build off in the distance, rain threatens to add extra weight to dry bales before they get moved. I used to get mad when he pushed too hard to get done in an evening and rushed me, until I had to pick up rained-on bales once. Anymore, I’m willing to take my chances of getting heatstroke to avoid moving rain-soaked square bales. Drinking water’s easy; loading and unloading wet bales isn’t. And the thought of discovering a rattlesnake under a bale is a good motivator to get bales off the hayfield right away.
Protective mother cows can be dangerous to deal with sometimes when trying to get a mean cow and her new calf out of the freezing cold and into the barn. Even though some momma cows don’t think they need intervention, we try to get chilled calves with their mother under protection. It always feels good when a sluggish newborn calf starts to show signs that it’s going to make it and knowing that we contributed to its survival.
We may live on the edge a bit when it comes to getting something accomplished around here and the kind of work we do may not float everyone’s boat but reeling in a rewarding lifestyle is worth the risks we take.
column originally published August 9-15, 2009

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